With the NFL play-offs here the term
"rifle a pass" or "the threw a bullet"
come to mind. there are a few gun
terms that have become part of our
daily vocabulary. Other terms like lock,
stock and barrel, bulls eye, Maggy’s drawers.
caliber, blow up in our face.
Can we think of others?
As a former Wisconsonite I’m rooten for
you’ll up north.


OK, “Maggy’s drawers” means you missed, right? What’s the origin of that?


From the flag they waved in front of your target, VS the spotter disk used to show where the shot was on the target.

Trigger event
Ram it home
Shot in the dark


Lock and Load (Which has always seemed to me backwards. Don’t you first load and then lock the bolt?)
In the cross hairs (OOPS!! NOT politically correct)
Keep your powder dry
Scope things out…


“Straight shooter”

"The whole nine yards”, Supposedly there were nine yards of .50 cal ammo, common in many WWII aircraft.

“Flash in the pan”

“It was a turkey shoot”



Dropped a clanger. Missed a steel target

In British Army vernacular a low down person was described as a “tow rag”. a tow rag was the cleaning rag used with a pull through. (Tow was recycled rags)

Maggies drawers was a red flag, (miss) ladies underwear was traditionally red flannel rather than white. Don’t know who Maggie was*.

“One up the spout” loaded and ready to go. Later a euphamism for pregnant.In a recent program on British TV set in the 1920s a policeman hands an officer a rifle and says “its got one up the spout and the safety is on Sir”

“Over the top” literally too much elevation. Putting a shot over the earth bank, now a cardinal sin at Bisley. in general use as excessive zeal. Used in WW1 to mean leaving a trench.

Point blank (point blanc) zero ranges for sighting in were coded white.

Smoked it - clay discs were used as targets up until quite recently. A good direct hit. We had some china clay discs in the drawer at our club until we had a clear out a couple of years back. These days they tend to use eggs, has anybody else heard of an egg shoot?

Just one other “loaded for bear” self evident. My old (American) boss used to use that expression all the time. I got the meaning instictively but I think it was lost on most of my collegues.

  • Maggie was a Liverpool prostitute immortalised in the song Maggie May.


Bacarnal - the term “Lock and load” does NOT mean load and then lock the bolt. It means lock the weapon (put the safety on) and then load it.


How about “cocked and locked” or “one over the eight” ? not sure about the last one, I believe it was something to do with the way rum rations were issued on British Naval ships Latterly the rum ration was an eigth of a pint.


Still remember the Line Coaches shouting, “With the weapon on SAFE, Lock and Load”. So if that’s the case of Johns statmeent, tends to add a bit of redundancy, though I may be, “Going off half cocked”. Yes, having had Trapdoors, I do know what THAT phrase means.


I never heard it expressed, “with the safety on, lock and load” in the Army. It was always just “lock and load.” The other absolutely would be redundant, It has nothing to do with the bolt being locked. We had the M1 rifle when I was in the service, and when you load, the bolt locks mechanically as it goes forward, cammed into the locked position by the cam slot in the operating rod. The soldier doesn’t, and really cannot, “lock” the bolt other than by simply closing it, which is required to load the rifle - so, that would be a redundancy as well.


I have actually heard that “A shot in the dark” predates firearms and was originally an archery term. As is supposedly the case with some of the other expressions commonly considered to be firearm related.

“Lock and Load” seems confusing, but I think it is refering to the act of locking a magazine in place and loading the chamber with a round from that magazine. I could be wrong though.

Did anyone mention, “Shoot from the hip” or “He’s a straightshooter” yet?


“padellare” …literally a verb made from the word “pot” …is a common hunting term here that means “to miss the target”


Shoot the gap.
Son of a gun
Who lit your cord?


Is it possible that ‘lock and load’ refers to ‘locking’ the flintlock or percussion hammer in the half cock position before loading and priming?


Guy, I’ll buy that.


Basic training drill at the Fort Leonard Wood firing range (with the M14) in 1964: “lock & load” meant to lock in a magazine, then load a round into the chamber.


Half cocked or going off half cocked was another one.

How about saying someone has shot his bolt? Crossbows were hard to reload and often required a winding mechanism. So once a bolt was shot the owner was out of the game. Pro temp.



Thanks for the translation of “tow rag”. I’ve been watching “New Tricks” on PBS and wondered what that was, exactly. I “heard” it as “toe rag” and while I knew it wasn’t a good thing given the context, I was in the weeds as to meaning.


Another couple-Straight as an arrow (absolutely honest) and Hoist with his own petard.(caught in his own trap)


Its amazing nobody has replied with the origin to sharpshooter. Sharpshooter was first pronounced SharpS-shooters meaning the rifle team used Sharps rifles in early long range matches. Apparently these guys were quite good, as when they arrived the other teams would moan and say here comes those Sharps shooters. And as much as I would like to confirm the “whole nine yards” story as being WWII bomber crew originated,as my father-in-law was a ball turrit gunner on a B-17, it isnt so according to recent searches. It seems it wasnt first heard till well ater WWII.