Pet Peeves – Part I (maybe)

Posted by Bruce Canfield

A number of years ago I listed some of my “pet peeves” as pertain to firearms in general, and collecting U.S. military weapons in particular. I thought it might be time to update the list. In the grand scheme of things, pet peeves are unimportant and simply represent one person’s opinion. What might drive one person up the wall doesn’t bother another person whatsoever. C'est la vie.

A writer using pretentious French words to sound smarter

Wait…scratch that one!

Referring to ammunition as “bullets.”

How often have you heard someone say they need to buy some bullets to go hunting or something of the sort? Hopefully, they’ll buy cartridge cases, powder and primers as well if they want to hit anything. A bullet is simply the projectile, not the entire round.

The term “P17 rifle”

This one really bugs me. There is not, and never has been, any U.S. military firearm called a “P17.” This term is often used to identify a Model 1917 “U.S. Enfield” rifle. The M1917’s predecessor was the British Pattern 14 rifle which can properly be referred to as a “P14.” The British never adopted the Model 1917 rifle and the United States did not, and does not, use the term “Pattern” or “P” to denote weapons. Someone may say, “not so fast Canfield…you just used the term “U.S. Enfield” and that isn’t official nomenclature either. Sounds like you have selective indignation.” Nice try, but it doesn’t wash. For starters, I enclosed that term in parentheses to denote that it is not a standard term. Secondly, I have no problem using common descriptive, albeit unofficial, terms to describe weapons. Good examples are “.45-70Trapdoor Springfield” or “Garand” rifle. While neither term was official nomenclature, they are not incorrect pseudo-nomenclature terminology like “P17.” Rant mode now off.

Using the term “furniture” to denote wooden components of a firearm.

This one is really rampant and some very astute writers and some experienced collectors fall prey to it. Although the term can be considered almost archaic today, when it comes to guns, “furniture” properly denotes the metal fittings (usually attached to the stock) such as barrel bands, band springs, buttplates, patch boxes, etc., etc. In this context, stocks, handguards and forends are not furniture. I guess since coffee tables and china cabinets are made of wood and are classified as furniture, then the wooden components of guns can be called furniture as well. This reasoning is perhaps logical, but it is also incorrect.

The term “cartouche.”

If I would have written this six or seven years ago, this one wouldn’t be on the list as I routinely used the term for many years. The vast majority of collectors today still do. In this context, the term “cartouche” is simply collector jargon. I’ve never seen a scholarly treatise on the derivation of the term as it applies to guns. It has been postulated that it was derived from the French word cartouche which means “cartridge.” During the mid-to-late 19th Century, the French were really into Egyptology and someone noticed that some of the pictographs on Egyptian hieroglyphics had a similar configuration to the oval-shaped, paper-wrapped, black powder charges of the muzzle-loading muskets of the era. There is another theory that the oval or elongated-oval inspection stamps on some military musket stocks of the same period were also called “cartouches” because of their shape. While this latter theory may explain why collectors today use the term to mean inspection markings, I find it doubtful that the French would use the same word to denote both powder charges and inspection markings. There may well be some other explanation, but I find the hieroglyphic-shaped derivation to be a bit more persuasive. Someone with authoritative knowledge of the subject can tell me that my assumptions are ridiculous and have nothing to do with the derivation of the word. If so, I would love to find out where the term really came from.

In any event, I’m not sure when “cartouche” moved from a perfectly acceptable collector term to a pet peeve for me, but it happened because of over-use. For many years, most collectors of U.S. military weapons referred to the Final Inspections stamps, typically on the left side of the stock, as “cartouches.” This included Trapdoor Springfields, U.S. Krags, Model 1903 rifles, M1 rifles, etc. Even a novice collector knew that the “SA/GAW” marking on a WWII M1 rifle stock was a cartouche. While unofficial, it was a widely-recognized term. So far, so good.

However, within the past few years, it seems many people refer to any and every marking on the wood or metal of a military firearm as a “cartouche.” Nowadays when someone uses the term, you can’t be sure if they mean a Final Inspection Stamp, proof firing stamp, sub-inspector mark, arsenal rebuild stamp, or anything else. The term has devolved into meaninglessness. A few years ago I vowed not to use the word “cartouche” any more but, instead, use the specific type of marking (examples of which appeared two sentences back). The number of people who agree with me on this could probably hold a meeting in a telephone booth but, hey, to each his own.

Using the word “site” to mean “sight.”

Anyone who types even one sentence can easily make typos. We all do. You may have noted some in this posting. Computer spell check is useful but if a word is typed wrong, but it is still a real word, it will pass unnoticed. This isn’t the case with the guys who use “site” when they mean “sight” because it is typed the same way over and over. They obviously don’t know the difference. A site is a place and a sight helps you shoot more accurately. Geez, don’t they print dictionaries anymore?

I’ll stop at this point and may add some more pet peeves later. In reality these are just minor things in life and getting worked up over this sort of stuff is silly. We all need to lighten up just a bit and have a laugh from time to time. The Good Lord is always in charge, regardless of what we may think, and life is too short not to enjoy a bit of levity on occasion. Like the old saying goes, “No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time at the office.”

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