The Test: Do you have the right stuff to be a “Gun Expert?


Your humble author among the great ones.

Your humble author among the great ones (Gunsite Academy 2002)

The modern era could legitimately be described as the “Age of the Expert”.  Thanks to the Internet, 100,000 self-proclaimed experts have arisen in all fields of endeavor. The television news channels trot out “experts” to fill time in their reports and bolster the opinions of the talking heads.

Recently, I was on the phone with a peer in the training world and we discussed the concern we both shared regarding the danger of new gun owners or gun carriers getting online advice from “gun enthusiasts.”

Before we progress. I have a confession to make, I am a vagina enthusiast. I have been my whole life. That being said, you won’t find me at the local clinic asking women to climb up in the stirrups so I can have a look. Neither will you find me online posting women’s health tips or offering expert advice for annual screening or pap smear testing.

More than a domain name and laptop.

More than a domain name and laptop.

It escapes me how modern men and women can equate a passion for a subject or ownership of an object as de facto evidence that they are now an expert in that field. This is America and you are free to post all the blog articles and YouTube videos you like, but owning a laptop and a domain name does not qualify you as an expert.

Offering firearms and self-defense advice is serious business. We are not talking about our favorite venison recipes or the best way to get red wine stains out of your clothes. Poor or negligent advice when it comes to the gravest extreme can lead to tragedy and the loss of life. We aren’t playing a game here, we are talking about people’s lives.

The Test

I have had the honor and privilege during my life to study at the feet of some of the greatest minds in the firearms world. Often I have had to travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles to seek out these men. I even had to make sacrifices in order to avail myself to their wisdom.

The list of those from whom I have learned so much includes John Farnam, Charlie Cutshaw, Ken Hackathorn, Bill Wilson, Wiley Clapp, Sheriff Jim Wilson, John Benner, Dave Spaulding, and Walter Rauch. If you do not know who most or all of those men are and the significance of their contributions to the world of firearms you need to hit the books.

With all of the aforementioned in place, I offer you this written test. Read the questions and see if you can answer them without a Google search. If you do not honestly score better than 75 percent on this exam, it is time for some soul searching if you wish of be “gun guy.”

  1. Who founded Gunsite Academy?
  2. Who invented the first repeating handgun? What was the name of that gun? Where did the name come from?
  3. Who wrote the book “Hell, I Was There!” ?
  4. Name one contribution that he previous author (#3) made to the gun industry.
  5. What method is used to calculate the ‘gauge’ of a shotgun?
  6. Who invented the M1911A1 pistol?
  7. Name two other inventions of the M1911 maker.
  8. What do the letters ACP stand for?
  9. What do the letters BMG stand for?
  10. What is the significance of the word “Picatinny?”
  11. Name 4 action-types for a centerfire rifle.
  12. Explain to a novice the difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition.
  13. What is the design purpose behind a ‘wadcutter’ bullet?
  14. Who patented the first firearms silencer?
  15. What does the “SAA” stand for in Colt SAA?
  16. What was the first product released by Sturm, Ruger & Co.?
  17. The modern 9mm centerfire cartridge is referred to by several monikers, name 3.
  18. What cartridge was the basis for the .40 S&W round?
  19. Name 3 American firearms manufacturers in business before 1900.
  20. Who designed the AR-15 rifle? and what does ‘AR’ stand for?

There you go, 20 questions that any person who calls themselves a gun guy or gal should be able to answer without hesitation. If you cannot legitimately answer 15 out of 20 without help, it’s time to hit the books.



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Paul Markel

Founder & President at Student of the Gun
Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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  1. Dana McLendon

    This test is gun history test. It tells us little or nothing about a person’s ability to instruct others in the proper use of a firearm.

    1. Paul Markel Post author

      Dana, I would submit that someone teaching Constitutional Law be acquainted with the likes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Rather than simply reciting from text.

      As a culture we have lost any idea of “why” we do what we do. Access to information is not knowledge or wisdom. Anyone can regurgitate words from a 3-ring binder and you can teach a monkey to load and fire a Glock.

      How did we get here? What lessons have we learned? Who taught us these lessons and how can we improve upon them? That is the essence of the Student of the Gun.

  2. John Mahan

    I agree with Dana. Not everyone has time for a history lesson. All the individuals mentioned made incredible contributions to the firearms world. There are many individuals today making great contributions as well. Time is a precious resource and you do the best you can with what you have. I’m a little disappointed at times with instructor’s throwing stones at each other. We are here to educate people, not fight amongst each other.

  3. Rod

    About the first Ruger product, are you talking about the FIRST firearm or the first product? The first Ruger product was a hand drill from which he got the shape for the grip on the Ruger Standard target pistol. I ended up with 17 of 20 but I was also an Army pistol instructor and an NRA pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor. You can teach people to shoot without knowing the history of guns.

      1. Mark Hazelrigg

        I do not have the privilege to claim expert in your context, however, I will claim to be a student of the gun, and I got all twenty answers. I have been around folks much deeper into guns than I, and marvel at what I have yet to learn.

  4. E. J. Redding

    I am not, nor have I ever considered myself a firearm expert, that being said, I did get 20 out of 20 first time through.

    I agree completely with Mr. Markell’s statement above. If we are unaware of why and how we arrived here, how can we improve?

    E. J. Redding

  5. Muncy Zuber

    OK, I passed your test BUT there is only ONE THING that I know for sure. There is MORE that I DON’T KNOW than I DO KNOW so I’ll just keep LEARNING!!!

  6. 5WarVeteran

    OK for the cheats Do not read this . . .

    1. Who founded Gunsite Academy?
    Gunsite was founded by Jeff Cooper as the American Pistol Institute (A.P.I.) in 1976 in order to teach the Modern Technique of the Pistol. The Modern Technique of the Pistol is a method of use of the handgun for self-defense. The Modern Technique uses a two-handed grip of the pistol, which brings the pistol to eye-level, so that the sights may be used to aim the pistol at one’s assailant. Prior to the founding of API, Jeff Cooper had traveled the world providing training in the Modern Technique to security teams such as those protecting heads of state, prominent politicians and wealthy individuals.[1] The facilities at Gunsite allowed Jeff Cooper to teach the Modern Technique to a much wider audience. At that time the firearms training school industry did not exist.

    2. Who invented the first repeating handgun?
    The first repeating pistol was patented by Elisha Collier in 1818 but invented around 1914.
    There have been multiple versions of repeating pistols created by different persons over the years- so no ONE person can really be credited with this. They have included revolvers, pepperboxes, autoloading pistols, bar pistols, multiple barreled pistols, turret pistols, etc. While Samuel Colt is generally credited with the invention of the revolver, there were revolving and twist style pistols made long before his creation.
    What was the name of that gun?
    Inventor Elisha Haydon Collier, a Boston inventor, along with Artemus Wheeler, another inventor, perfected a five-shot flintlock gun and took out a patent on it in 1814. At the time, multi-barreled weapons like pepperbox pistols were prone to misfires, and were clumsy and difficult to operate. Collier’s genius was to invent a gun that was “self priming.” When the hammer of the weapon was cocked, a compartment automatically released a measured amount of gunpowder into the pan for another charge. Collier Revolving Flintlock and/or the Collier Pistol.

    3. Where did the name come from?
    The Inventor and the type of weapon.

    4. Who wrote the book “Hell, I Was There!” ?
    Elmer Keith

    5. Name one contribution that he previous author (#3) made to the gun industry.
    An Idaho rancher, firearms enthusiast, and author. Keith was instrumental in the development of the first magnum revolver cartridge, the .357 Magnum, as well as the later .44 Magnum and .41 Magnum cartridges.

    6. What method is used to calculate the ‘gauge’ of a shotgun?
    Take exactly 1Lb of lead.
    Divide it into (say) 12 equally heavy pieces, ie 1/12Lb each
    Without removing any metal, roll one of the pieces into a perfect sphere
    The diameter of the resulting ball equals the bore of a 12 gauge shotgun.

    That’s why higher gauge numbers equate to smaller bores. I think this dates from when measuring weight was easier than measuring length.


    Assuming that is the basis, the density of lead is
    11.34 g/cm³ or 0.40968 lb/in³

    The volume of a sphere is (pi/6)*d³

    if VD = 1 lb/n gauge, then
    d³ = (6/pi)*1 lb/(0.40968 lb/in³*N)

    d = (4.6618/N)^(1/3) in

    that fits the table in post 2 pretty well.

    Alternatively, a “N-pounder” cannon would shoot a ball
    (4.6618*N)^(1/3) in diameter, a 32-pounder being 5.3″ in diameter.

    7. Who invented the M1911A1 pistol?
    John Moses Browning.
    Development of selfloading pistols by Colt seems to have begun before 1900, while the specific designs that result in the M1911 was furthered from around 1904-05 onwards. Final designs tested at the end of 1910 decided between the Colt and its only rival (the Colt passing with no malfunctions where the opponent had almost 40). It was formally adopted in March 1911, hence the designation.

    8. Name two other inventions of the M1911 maker.
    John and his brothers began producing this rifle in their Ogden shop but customer demand soon exceeded their shop’s production capacity. They were unable to expand the “Browning Gun Factory,” as their shop was called, because they lacked the capital required for expansion and didn’t have a well established distribution channel to market their products. One has to note here that although John Moses Browning was very satisfied with the sales of his guns he was also very unhappy that the production chores and the daily work prohibited him from working on his new ideas.
    A salesman for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company named Andrew McAusland happened to see one of John’s Single Shot rifles in 1883. McAusland immediately bought one and sent it to Winchester’s headquarters. The gun drew Winchester’s interest and T. G. Bennet, Winchester’s vice president and general manager, went to Ogden to buy the rights to Browning’s gun. When Bennet arrived in Ogden, it didn’t take long for the men to agree on the sale and Winchester paid John Moses $8,000 for the rights to produce the gun. The agreement was beneficial to both parties. Winchester was happy because they turned competitor into a benefactor, plus they added an excellent rifle to their product line. John Moses was equally happy because the money from the sale and the ensuing relationship with Winchester allowed him to concentrate on inventing things instead of manufacturing them.
    From 1883 until 1902, John Moses Browning designed several firearms for Winchester. Some of them reached production status while others were never produced. They all, however, were ingenious and innovative designs. In addition to that first Single Shot Rifle, other guns that John Moses designed and which became best sellers were: Winchester Model 1886 Lever Action Repeating Rifle, Model 1887 Lever Action Repeating Shotgun, Model 1897 Pump Action Shotgun, Model 1894 Lever Action Repeating Rifle, Model 1895 Lever Action Repeating Rifle, etc.
    At the same time, John Moses was also working on another of his ingenious ideas. He wanted to invent an automatic shotgun that would use the expanding gases of a fired shell to recock the gun and make it ready for the next shot. John got this idea while watching a friend of his, Will Wright, shoot his Browning-made rifle. A clump of weeds just in front of the firing line bent with the muzzle blast. This gave John the idea of using the gases for something productive like cocking the gun. He designed a testing gun with which he tested his ideas.
    When the testing validated his theory, John applied the principle on three different guns: two machine-guns and a repeating shotgun. His machine-guns, the first fully automatic guns which used expanding gases for cycling, were later sold to Colt and the U.S. Government and served the U.S. Armed Forces through three wars. One was Colt Model 1895 Peacemaker machine-gun, while the other was the famous Browning Automatic Rifle, affectionately called BAR by GI’s. Browning’s machine-guns are still used by US and other armies around the world.
    9. What do the letters ACP stand for?
    Automatic Colt Pistol
    10. What do the letters BMG stand for?
    Browning Machine Gun
    11. What is the significance of the word “Picatinny?”
    The term “Picatinny” comes from the place of origin for this standardized mounting system, the Picatinny Arsenal located in New Jersey. MIL-STD-1913 specifies the dimensions required for consideration, including length, width, height, and angles and the tolerances allowed for each measurement. The key distinction of the MIL-STD-1913 lies in the specification for the profile and the recoil groove.

    12. Name 4 action-types for a centerfire rifle.
    Bolt, breech, gas, recoil
    13. Explain to a novice the difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition.
    Centerfire is a round that uses a percussive primer placed in the center of the cartridge. Which in many cases are re-loadable by replacing the primer.
    Rimfire Cartridges utilize a single use rimmed cartridge having a pressure activated explosive coating on the inside rear end of the cartridge.
    14. What is the design purpose behind a ‘wadcutter’ bullet?
    A wadcutter is a special-purpose flat-fronted bullet specially designed for shooting paper targets, usually at close range and at subsonic velocities typically under approximately 900 ft/s (274 m/s). Wadcutters have also found favor for use in self-defense guns, such as .38 caliber snub-nosed revolvers, where due to short barrel lengths, maximum bullet velocities are usually low, typically under 900 ft/s (274 m/s), and improved lethality is desired. Wadcutters are often used in handgun and airgun competitions.

    15. Who patented the first firearms silencer?
    Hiram Percy Maxim, the son of Maxim gun inventor Hiram Stevens Maxim, is usually credited with inventing and selling the first commercially successful models circa 1902

    16. What does the “SAA” stand for in Colt SAA?
    Single Action Army
    17. What was the first product released by Sturm, Ruger & Co.?
    When it came to designing their first auto pistol, Ruger decided to incorporate the looks of the German 9mm Luger and the American Colt Woodsman into their first commercially produced .22 caliber pistol (see Ruger Standard), which became so successful that it launched the entire company.
    18. The modern 9mm centerfire cartridge is referred to by several monikers, name 3.
    9mm “Luger”
    9mm Parabellum
    9x19mm 9 NATO
    9mm Largo Spain
    9mm Glisenti Italy
    9mm Steyr Austro-Hungarian
    9mm Police
    9mm Makarov

    19. What cartridge was the basis for the .40 S&W round?
    The 40 S&W was derived from the 10mm. The 10mm originated from the work of Jeff Cooper in the early ‘70s, Cooper worked on a concept originated by Whit Collins. The 40 G&A, Collins’ design of the 40 G&A would ultimately become what we know today as the 40 S&W. From Cooper’s work with Collins he developed the 40 Super which later became the 10mm that was originally chambered in the Bren Ten.
    20. Name 3 American firearms manufacturers in business before 1900.
    Henry, Winchester, Whitney, Springfield, Smith and Wesson, Spencer, Remington, Sharps, Gatling, Deringer, Colt, Cooper, Allen & Thurber.
    21. Who designed the AR-15 rifle? and what does ‘AR’ stand for?
    Eugene Stoner, Robert Fremont, and L. James Sullivam
    “AR”malite of Fairchild Armalite Research

    1. John L. Beavers

      Answered all but #2, no problem , I’m no where near a expert, but I’m still a student, of the gun, of the blade, of the horse, of practical martial arts, always a student, always more to learn. When I die I’ll stop learning.

      1. Robert Margulies

        As student and a teacher, perhaps i am a bit didactic; but “the modern 9mm” really has to be distinguished by case length if we are discussing self -loaders. Clearly though ‘9mm’ is accurate, it is important to distinguish between 9×17, 9×18, 9×19,etc.; especially if one is teaching.
        Re: action types; I wa taught manual bolt, semi-auto, lever, break-action……
        Interestingly, and off topic, one of my current students and customers is a direct descendant of JMB. Wonderful stories.

    2. WUA

      Thanks 5WarVetern

      I only knew a few of the answers, then again, I am not going for expert. But I sure find the history aspect fascinating. Someone seeking to further their expertise surely will be enhanced by absorbing and seeking more of this facet to firearms. Inspiring a student, after all is part of teaching, eh?
      You know, I had never heard of Hell, I Was There. Sure would loved to have been around a story telling session or two of Elmer Keith’s.
      I don’t know about you, but I’ll be waiting to hear the story of Paul’s (kilt??) attire (in his Facebook post too), lol………..

      1. 5WarVeteran

        LOL! I have four Kilts of the Fraser Clan and one utility kilt . . .

        1. mike

          Thanks Paul. I feel that I can at least speek to some degree of professionalism. 19 of 20 for me. Pictatinny is something I need to study more. Fortunately I have a few of the authors books, first editions a gift from my grandfather

  7. TJ

    Question number 2: are you asking about an American or in all of History?

      1. 5WarVeteran

        Do you have a better article? Do you have a point?

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