CHAPTER 1

Basic Firearms 101

As swift as pellet out of gone

Whan fyre is in the poudre ronne

And swiche a smoke gan out-wende …

And hit stank as the pit of helle …

—Geoffrey Chaucer, “House of Fame,” 1380

The very definition of a gun has changed throughout history, and continues to fluctuate depending on the context of the discussion. In the United States, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF or ATF) has a very specific working definition of firearm—as they must—and it is one that we need to know in order to protect ourselves from litigation or arrest. Despite the “What’s in a name?” proclivities of theatre artists, in issues of technical or legal definition precision is key. For the BATF, a firearm is actually a specific ...

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