Today we’re grateful to have our own Tamara Keel explaining the term battery for those of you who’ve heard it but don’t understand it. For those of you who’re acting smug about those who don’t know it — stow it. Something is always new to someone. That’s why we have Language Lessons ! Mad Duo
Language Lessons: Battery
ALSO KNOWN AS: Lockup
CATEGORY: Shooting Terminology
APPLICATION OF USE: Denoting that a firearm is mechanically prepared to be fired.
DEFINITION: The term “In Battery” means that a firearm, generally (but not always) a repeating firearm, is in the mechanical condition that is safe for firing. It is derived from artillery terminology.
Dating back to muzzle-loading cannon days, artillery was grouped together in batteries which tended to receive their firing orders together. Having no recoil compensation, a fired gun would roll rearward and “out of battery” and it wouldn’t be ready to fire until it was rolled back into line with the rest of the battery.
INTO THE WEEDS: When the first cannon with hydraulic recoil control systems began appearing, the term “out of battery” took on additional significance. If the artillery piece fired and was somehow prevented from returning forward in its mount after recoiling, firing it again while the gun was in its rearward position in the mount would be dangerous to the mount and quite possibly the crew.
With self-loading small arms, the term “out of battery” means that the slide or bolt is not in its fully-forward position. With higher-powered cartridges in locked breech guns, this is a safety issue.
In a locked breech firearm, the bolt or slide is mechanically locked to the barrel until the bullet has left the bore and the pressure in the chamber have dropped to a safe level for the cartridge case to be ejected. In most self-loading firearms, the disconnector will prevent the weapon from firing unless it is fully in battery, but this is not true of all designs.
Consequences of an out-of battery discharge can vary wildly based on the power of the cartridge in question as well as the design of the firearm. In 9mm or .45ACP pistols, it can blow the magazine’s guts out to land at the shooter’s feet, perhaps cracking a polymer frame or shattering the wood or plastic grip panels on a steel frame. I have actually seen out-of-battery discharges in 9mm guns that swelled but did not split the brass, resulting in no gas escaping or damage to the firearm (this was in an HK P7M8.) Some of the more potent pistol rounds can be worse, snapping the frame in two above the trigger guard or worse.
With a rifle cartridge, an out-of-battery firing will almost invariably trash the gun and could very likely cause injury to the firer.
Whenever a firearm is inspected after cleaning and reassembly, care should be taken to make sure that the weapon will go fully into batter properly and that the disconnector functions as intended.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: Tamara Keel made a living slinging guns across the glass for more than 20 years, so it goes without saying she’s been muzzled more times than just about anyone we know. Tamara has been regularly published in many places such as SWAT Magazine, Concealed Carry Magazine, and is currently the Handgun Editor for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine. But it’s not just on dead trees that she writes — you can catch most of her wit on her blog. She’s into making fun of gun hipsters, shooting bowling pin matches, drinking new craft beers, and collecting old and outdated cameras. You can also catch her on Instagram @tamarakeel .