By Paul Evancoe

In the world of firearms, the term “lockup” does not refer to convicts serving time.

Many gun owners who have heard the term lockup find it ambiguous and use it ambiguously with the term “in battery.” While these two terms are related, they are not, in general, interchangeable or synoptic by definition. For the purpose of this article we will explore the meaning of both terms and how they apply to firearms, with a focus on lockup.

In short, lockup is a mechanical action that occurs according to a firearm’s principle of operation. Lockup is often interchanged with “locked breech” and “in battery.” In our case, lockup refers to the locked firing position of a fully closed or “locked” bolt/action of most non-blowback, self-loading and manually loaded firearms, including pistols, rifles and shotguns. Once lockup is physically achieved, the action is referred to as being in battery. “Out-of-battery” refers to the status of the firearm before the action has returned to the normal firing position and lockup has been achieved. While that might all sound a bit confusing, in reality, it isn’t. Let’s first explore the origin of the terms beginning with “in battery.” The term can be traced back to the modern use of artillery in warfare. A field artillery battery generally consisted of five cannons, usually arranged in a line with their enemy-facing muzzles projecting into an embrasure, or over a parapet, in readiness for firing. Aligning the cannon muzzles in battery provided several advantages then, as it does today. It helps to keep the muzzle blast forward of the artillerymen who load and fire the cannons, and in the day of black powder, it kept that large cloud of smoke mostly forward of the cannons so the artillerymen could see what they were doing.

When fired, the muzzle loading cannons of the day would recoil and “travel” rearward, thus putting them physically out of firing alignment with the other cannons. They were, at that point, out-of-battery. At this location the artillerymen would reload the cannon then roll it back into its firing position in battery alignment and fire...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N2 (March 2017)
and was posted online on January 27, 2017


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