How much do you know about guns?

Sumter sheriff's deputies explain terminology, safety amid national debates

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 4/15/18

For some people - especially law enforcement and military personnel - firearms are necessary equipment for the job.

And though many public servants, and even civilians, have been around firearms since the birth of our nation, you will still see …

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How much do you know about guns?

Sumter sheriff's deputies explain terminology, safety amid national debates

Sr. Cpl. Evan Rogerson with Sumter County Sheriff's Office fires a Smith and Wesson M&P-15 at a private range on March 23 to demonstrate the accuracy of the firearm.
Sr. Cpl. Evan Rogerson with Sumter County Sheriff's Office fires a Smith and Wesson M&P-15 at a private range on March 23 to demonstrate the accuracy of the firearm.
ADRIENNE SARVIS / THE SUMTER ITEM
Posted

For some people - especially law enforcement and military personnel - firearms are necessary equipment for the job.

And though many public servants, and even civilians, have been around firearms since the birth of our nation, you will still see them handle weapons with caution because they understand the power behind them.

Unfortunately, while firearms can be used for protection or recreation, the weapons are also used to commit crimes and harm others, sparking a heated debate across the nation on who or what is to blame and what, if any, action should be taken.

Law enforcement and civilians alike who are trained to use firearms know education is the key to using any weapon safely, so deputies with Sumter County Sheriff's Office answered a few questions that have been repeated throughout the country in gun control debates.

Firearm safety tips

Never handle a firearm while intoxicated.

Always assume every gun is loaded.

Never point a firearm at a person or object you do not intend to shoot, even if your finger is not on the trigger and the safety is on.

Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.

Be aware of the people and objects behind your target.

Practice and study often so you know your firearm.

Do not buy cheap ammunition.

If your gun is for home security, practice retrieving your weapon from wherever it is stowed.

Trigger actions

This refers to the number of actions, two at most, it takes for a bullet to be projected from a gun when the trigger is pulled. Pulling the trigger will either release the hammer, which strikes the round (a single piece of ammunition), or it will first cock and then release the hammer, which will strike the round.

Single-action: The hammer of the firearm must be cocked manually before pulling the trigger, which will then release the hammer, striking the round.

Double-action/single-action: The hammer needs to be cocked only once, manually or by partially pulling the trigger back, before a bullet can be projected. Each of the following trigger pulls will project one bullet without having to cock the hammer beforehand each time.

Double-action only: Pulling the trigger will always both cock the hammer and project a bullet.

Semi-automatic vs. fully automatic

Semi-automatic means one bullet is projected each time the trigger is pulled.

Automatic means bullets will continue to be projected from the weapon for as long as the trigger is pulled. Firearms that have the capability to fire automatically can also be used for burst fire, meaning three to four bullets will be projected when the trigger is pulled and quickly released.

The biggest difference between semi-automatic and automatic firearms is accuracy, said Senior Cpl. Lenell Allen with Sumter County Sheriff's Office.

Continuously firing an automatic weapon causes the gun to raise higher - because of the recoil - making it difficult to hit the target, he said.

"So it's a far less accurate weapon compared to a semi-automatic weapon," he said.

Sheriff's office Investigator Mike McCauley said the military even prefers burst fire weapons to fully automatic weapons because firing automatic reduces accuracy and wastes ammunition. The automatic capability is good for providing cover fire to allow other military personnel to get to safety, he said.

Using semi-automatic fire basically forces you to stop after each trigger pull and reassess what you're shooting at, he said.

AR-15

It's basically just a rifle, Allen said.

AR stands for Armalite rifle, and 15 represents the 15th design of that style of firearm frame, which contains the elements that make the gun fire, he said.

Other components, such as the barrel, buffer and stock, are added to the frame, giving the AR-15 its look.

Models of the AR-15 that can be purchased by civilians are semi-automatic and do not have the capability to be fully automatic.

A bump stock is a separate component that, when attached to a semi-automatic, can allow it to fire rapidly, similar to a fully automatic weapon, though that is not the only reason to use one.

Allen said the AK-47 is basically the Russian version of the AR-15. Both firearms basically have the same components and firing mechanisms but in different locations.

Assault-style/military-grade firearms

Instead of saying military grade to describe automatic firearms used by the military, the best term is select-fire weapons, Allen said.

Select-fire weapons have a switch that allows the user to select semi-automatic, burst mode or fully automatic fire, he said.

These weapons are not available to the public, Allen said.

Select-fire weapons and other weapons with automatic capabilities are not for sale at gun shops and gun shows, but some gun collectors or museums do have older-model automatic weapons, such as the Thompson submachine gun, or "Tommy Gun," because of the history and age of the weapon, he said.

Allen said it's very difficult for even a collector to get an automatic weapon, and it requires a Federal Firearms License and an extensive background check from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF will continue to check in with the gun owner, he said.

Educating children

Rogerson said he raised three sons while also owning firearms and never had issues at home.

Rogerson said his sons also knew that until they reached a certain age, they could not touch the firearms unless he was present.

Now, one of his sons is a fellow deputy at the sheriff's office.

People should explain firearm safety to their children instead of keeping it a secret so the children know that firearms can be dangerous if they ever come across one, he said.

"Education is key," Allen said. "Guns are not toys."