The Muzzle in Firearms Gun Terminology

Close up of a hunter aiming his shotgun
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Simply put, the muzzle of a gun or firearm is the front end of its barrel or bore. This terminology applies to all firearms, including long guns such as rifles and shotguns, as well as handguns such as revolvers and pistols.

All Guns Have Muzzles -- Some are Muzzleloaders

True muzzleloading guns must be loaded via the front of the barrel--the muzzle. This is where the term "muzzleloading" comes from. A muzzle-loader gun is any gun (rifle, musket, shotgun or pistol that must be loaded from the end of the barrel rather than through a ​breach at the rear of the gun. (The photo shown here identifies the muzzle, but the gun itself is NOT a muzzleloader).

To load a muzzleloading gun, a person must first stand the gun upright, so that its muzzle is pointed upward and the butt of its stock is resting upon the ground or some other firm and stable surface. Then a shooter pours a carefully and accurately measured charge of gunpowder into the barrel's bore through the muzzle.

As a side note, be aware of the proper and correct method for measuring black powder, which is the original propellant used in muzzleloading guns. Black powder, and certain black powder substitutes such as Pyrodex, are measured by volume, not weight. For that reason, a powder measure is used, rather than a scale, to measure each charge of powder.

The next step in loading a muzzleloader is to insert a projectile or charge of shot into the barrel's muzzle and ram it down into and through the bore until it finally stops on top of the powder charge that was previously placed.

When loading a muzzleloader gun, it is extremely important to ensure that there is no excess air space between the charge of powder and the projectile or projectiles. Excess space can cause extreme pressure spikes when the powder is ignited, and this has the potential for causing the gun to explode.

Rifled vs. Smoothbore Barrels

When a barrel is rifled, the inside of the bore has a set of machined, spiraled grooves that give the bullet spin as it leaves the barrel. This spin stabilizes the bullet, improving its accuracy. The place where the front of the rifling ends is known as the crown. Rifled barrels, such as found on rifles, revolvers, and pistols, all have crowns at their muzzles. Smoothbore barrels such as are found on most shotguns, muskets and similar guns, do not have crowns per se.

It is extremely important to be safe when handling firearms, and the number-one gun safety rule is to make sure that the gun's muzzle never points towards or is blocked by anything you are not prepared to shoot.