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Misidentified Weapons

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People often get the names of things wrong in media, especially when it comes to weaponry. This particular trope applies when the misidentified object is a firearm. Can be an honest mistake, Critical Research Failure, or acknowledged Creator's Apathy. If the misidentification is intentional to get around copyright laws, it's A.K.A.-47. If the weapon is cosmetically modified to resemble something else (for example, an American Browning M2 mocked up as a Russian DShK), it's Weapons Understudies.


A sub-trope of Guns Do Not Work That Way. For the equivalent trope for armored vehicles, see Tanks, but No Tanks. For aircraft, see Just Plane Wrong.


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  • S.W.A.T.'s Big Bad gets sprung from a prisoner-transport bus (and quickly recaptured by the heroes) by a couple of henchmen wearing fake LAPD uniforms armed with suppressed pistols and a single compact SMG. Cut immediately to the captain holding a press conference and announcing that they were "armed with AK-47s." Except that nobody had anything that even looked like an AK. This may be a case of unintentional (or maybe deliberate) Truth in Television, as the LAPD has been accused of (and occasionally caught red-handed) falsely claiming that such weapons were used in one crime or another to support the strict gun laws that the city of Los Angeles has used its considerable political clout to push through the California legislature.
  • In-universe example in Hitman. Russian arms dealer, drug addict, and president's little brother Udre Belikov shows off some of his stock, calling an M16 an M203 (that's the grenade launcher for it) and saying that it's chambered in 7.62 (it's 5.56), calling the 9x18mm Makarov PM a .22, etc. Agent 47 replies, "I don't know if it's the drugs, or if you're usually this inept, but you've been wrong about most of these weapons." Mr. 47 then proceeds to kill everyone in the room, except the innocent strippers.
    • Ironically, as he's calling Belikov out for his glaring mistakes, 47 intentionally makes a small one of his own. While calling him out, he picks up a submachine gun that Belikov had earlier identified as a "Kedr 9mm" and announces that it's actually a Chinese copy. It would have been so easy to instead say that it was a Bulgarian copy, which it actually was (the Chinese don't even make Kedr copies, even if they do copy just about everything else).
  • In A Few Good Men, Lieutenant Colonel Markinson is described as taking a .45 calibre pistol and shooting himself with it. However, his suicide is captured onscreen and in the scene in question, he uses a Beretta 92 variant, which is chambered in 9mm.
  • In Bruges has Harry Waters call a Steyr TMP "an Uzi" while browsing Yuri's guns. There actually is an Uzi on the table, but it's not the gun Harry focuses on.
  • In the opening sequence of Captain America: Civil War, Cap announces to the Avengers that Crossbone’s mercenaries are using AR-15s... except there’s not a single AR derivative present. Most of the mercenaries are using DSA SA58s, Galil MARs, or SIG 550 rifles.

     Live-Action Television 
  • An episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent revolved around a teenage boy shooting someone with his grandfather's old GI sidearm from the Vietnam War. The weapon is an M1911A1 .45, but is consistently called an M11. This is a problem on many levels, as the M11 is a variant of the SIG-Sauer P228 in 9mm, it was adopted by the the US Military in 2003 to equip security personnel rather than general issue, it didn't even exist as a concept in the 1960s, and it bears as much resemblance to a 1911 as a Toyota Tercel has to a Dodge Viper.
  • An episode of National Geographics Drugs Inc famously shows an anonymous drug dealer calling a Hi Point pistol his "Glock Forty" and his "problem solver".
  • Third Watch once took a 9mm Walther P-38/P-1 and called it a ".22 Luger." They only look alike in the sense that they are both German-made automatic pistols, and the pistol commonly known as the Luger was made in 9mm and 7.65 Mauser; there was never any such thing as a ".22 Luger" cartridge.
    • The line might have been intended as a Shout-Out to Neuromancer, whose protagonist acquired a replica Walther chambered in .22LR for self-defence, but if so then whoever thought it up clearly forgot to re-read it to make sure they remembered right.

     Video Games 
  • In Resident Evil 5, every full-auto-capable gun is called a "machine gun." The guns classified as this are a Skorpion, an MP5 (both submachine guns), a SIG 556, an AK-47 (both assault rifles), and a handheld minigun (the only actual machine gun usable in the game). It's notable that every "machine gun" except the Gatling gun (which has infinite ammo) takes the exact same ammo type.
    • This also happens in Resident Evil: Revelations (with the exception of the Glock 18, which is classified as a handgun, but it fires pretty fast if the player holds down the fire button), where the "machine guns" include an MP5, a P90 (either both submachine guns or a submachine gun and a PDW respectively; however, neither are machine guns) and an AUG, a G36, and a gold-plated AK-74 called the "High Roller" (all three are assault rifles), the only actual machine guns in the game being miniguns mounted on boats and helicopters.
    • The S&W Model 500 from Resident Evil 6 appears in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 as one of the weapons Barry can use in the campaign, but instead of referring to it by its actual name or going A.K.A.-47 and calling it the "Elephant Killer" like in 6, it's called the "Magnum Python," referring to (and possibly trying to imply it is) the Colt Python Barry used in Resident Evil and Resident Evil 5's Raid Mode. What's weird is that an actual Colt Python, a modified one called the "Pale Rider," appears in the same game.
    • In Resident Evil 4, Krauser has an MP9 that the game calls a TMP; however, since the MP9 was based on the TMP, it's something of a downplayed example.
  • Call of Duty
    • The original game averted this in painstaking detail; even the names that weren't quite correct still had a good basis in reality, such as the StG44 going by its earlier in-development name of "MP44".
    • Later games in the series, not so much - the very next game after the original, for instance, featured the M1 carbine but called it the M1A1. The M1A1 was a specialized variant of the M1 with a pistol grip and lightweight folding wire stock. Really irritating when you remember that the original featured a correctly-modeled M1A1, with the player character unfolding the stock when drawing the weapon; they apparently went to the effort of creating an entirely new model with new animations for the new engine, but then were too lazy to simply delete two characters from the name. The full-stock Carbine would continue to be misidentified as the folding-stock version until the Zombies maps in Call of Duty: Black Ops.
    • There's also the issue (at least in singleplayer) of a scoped Gewehr 43 being referred to as the bolt-action, American Springfield rifle.
  • Modern Warfare
    • Modern Warfare 2 features the "G18", meant to be the infamous select-fire Glock 18 as judging by the name, but which, like in most movies, is actually a converted Glock 17note .
    • There's also the first two MW games' M9 pistol, which is actually the older, noticeably different and extremely rare 92SB rather than the 92FS - and in 2, it even has its own version of the Glock issue, as the "M93 Raffica" is actually just the 92SB model with a foregrip and skeleton stock bolted on.
    • A few guns in later games also have the same issue as the M1 Carbine in the classic games, either one gun identified as a similar but different model (the "Type 95" in Modern Warfare 3 actually being a QBZ-97, or the Mk 14 EBR in 2 being called the "M21 EBR" in multiplayer to remind players of the M21 from CoD4) or changing the name of an otherwise-unmodified returning weapon, despite their refusal to do so when it actually made sense for the Carbine (the original-model M16 from Call of Duty: Black Ops is reused for the flashback levels of the sequel, referred to as the newer M16A1 but otherwise identical in every way to the original version, despite the fact the M16A2 should have been used in that particular instance).
    • The series constantly misidentifies the AKs-74u as a submachine gun. Yes, it does fill the role of an SMG, but it fires assault rifle ammunition, not pistol rounds, so it can't be an SMG. Interestingly, MW1 dialed the Krinkov's aiming zoom and movement speed to match an AR's.
    • One gun featured in Call of Duty: Black Ops was technically identified correctly in game, but caused this trope to happen quite a bit in real life was the Commando. Seemingly based on the GAU-5A/A, also commonly known as the Colt Commando, the in game weapon features an especially heavy helping of Anachronism Stew by removing the built in carry handle, replacing it with a flat top optics rail, then mounting to it a flip up iron sight made by a company that didn't even exist until forty-three years after the game takes place, backwards. Is it anyone's surprise that players unfamiliar with firearms history would assume the Commando was an M4 Carbine, despite the fact the M4 wasn't even developed until roughly thirty years after the game takes place?
      • 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War sees the return of the Commando from the first game... this time known as the XM4 carbine. It still features it’s Vietnam era features like the original M16 pistol grip, 11.5 inch barrel, full auto fire control group, and lack of a forward assist that makes it similar to a GAU-5/A/A, with none of the features that would actually make it a correct representation of an XM4, such as the M16A2 upper reciever (still uses the anachronistic flat top optics rail, in fact), A2 pistol grip, or 14.5 inch barrel. Fortunately, the games M16 (actually modeled after the M16A2) can be customized in the Gunsmith suite with a 16.3 inch barrel and collapsible stock, making it resemble the real XM4.
  • Fallout 2 calls the Belgian Fabrique Nationale P90 as being made by H&K (Heckler and Koch), a Germany arms firm famous for the MP5 and the UMP. Justified that Fallout takes place in an Alternate History (note also that the gun starts loaded with 9mm ammo when acquired, then due to a bug loads 10mm ammo afterwards, rather than the 5.7x28mm rounds the real thing uses).
  • Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 have the same sort of issue as Call of Duty. While they do actually model the correct weapon used as the US military's M9, their "93R" is simply the M9 model with a larger magazine and foregrip. The former game also features an RPKM (a version of the original RPK with the synthetic furniture of the AK-74M) misnamed as (and given damage and a capacity mirroring) the smaller-caliber RPK-74M.
  • A relatively minor but nonetheless common one is when a game's "AK" model is a Chinese Norinco Type 56. The Type 56 rifle (not to be confused with the Type 56 carbine, which is China's SKS) is the unlicensed Chinese clone of the AK/AKM, having features of both models, but zero parts interchangeability with either. They look mostly similar (the fully-hooded front sight is the biggest giveaway), feed the same 7.62x39 round from the same stamped magazine, and have the same Manual of Arms, but are still not (quite) the same weapon. Similar issues exist with the AK-103, a modern version in the original 7.62mm round; everything from Freedom Fighters (2003) to Far Cry 3 will feature the weapon but call it an AK-47 anyway.note 
  • This is of the many, many problems that plague the terrible zombie apocalypse FPS game Chasing Dead. The only weapons in the game which aren't either generically names or outright fictional are the M4, MP5 and AK-47. However the "MP5" is blatantly an M4 rifle(!) with a PEQ laser sight and the "AK-47" is quite obviously another M4 with a holographic sight. And you'd think that because they used an M4 model for the other two rifles they must have got the M4 right at least, but for some reason the "M4" actually has the model of its much older progenitor, the M16. Finally, for bonus incongruity, the PEQ box on the "MP5" is fitted up at the scope of the gun instead of being mounted on the handguard and the laser pointer isn't used at all, so they not only badly misidentified the weapons they were using, but they misidentified the attachments on those weapons as well.
  • The Uncharted series generally goes for A.K.A.-47 for its guns, though one instance goes for this trope instead: the Galil ARM 7.62 present in the multiplayer of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and its stand-alone expansion Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is misnamed as the "INSAS", an entirely different weapon that only vaguely bears a resemblance to the Galil.

  • In The Pirates of Penzance, the Major General's song contains the line "When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin."
    • In the original version the line referred to the Chassepot rifle, an early single-shot bolt-action rifle quite popular in the 1860s and 1870s which, despite being a French design, was a hit in England. Gilbert changed the lyrics when the magazine-equipped Mauser rifles were widely adopted around the world.

     Real Life 
  • The rifle so commonly known as the "AK-47" is the most common example of this trope, as "AK-47" was never an official Soviet/Russian designation for Mikhail Kalashnikov's automatic rifle. It was officially designated simply the AK for Avtomat Kalashnikova, or "Kalashnikov's Automatic," with no model or year number attached. Contrary to popular belief, the original AK was actually expensive to produce and not as reliable as was hoped, so Kalashnikov came up with the improved and simplified AKM (modernizírovanny Avtomat Kalashnikova, essentially "Kalashnikov's Modernized Automatic") in the early 1950s. Original AKs are relatively rare, but AKMs are truly ubiquitous and are generally what people are talking about (whether they realize it or not) when they say "AK-47". No Kalashnikov rifle had any model number in its nomenclature until the AK-74 was adopted to replace the AKM as the standard-issue rifle of the Red Army.
    • The mistake was understandable, since the Russians often used a model/year number as part of the official designations of their weapons (examples: Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 rifle, SVT-40 rifle, PPSh-41 and PPS-43 SMGs, DP-28 light machine gun, even the later AK-74 as above). This practice was very inconsistent (such as the DP-28 being upgraded into the DPM rather than a DP-28M, but then being converted to belt-feeding as the RP-46 instead of simply the RP), and did not include the original AK.
    • Confusingly, the year is included in the designation of Kalashnikov's previous prototype design, the little known AK-46. What's really interesting is that this rifle had basically failed the trials it was submitted for (and thus shouldn't have had an army designation at all), but it was seen as promising enough to be left in the race for the next round of trials. By the next year Kalashnikov and his team radically reworked the design, and the rest was history.
  • A very common one is when people refer to any fully-automatic weapon as a machine gun. Machine guns are a specific type of weapon. Just because a gun can fire full auto does not make it a machine gun. Automatic/select-fire rifles, machine pistols, and submachine guns (commonly called SMGs) are not machine guns. Similar cases have any sort of launched explosives referred to as a "Bazooka", or any sort of SMG or machine pistol being referred to as an "Uzi".
    • For the record, a machine gun is generally defined as a crew-served support weapon designed to be emplaced (usually on a tripod) in a fighting position or mounted on a vehicle and suppress the enemy with sustained automatic fire (note: this means firing lots of controlled bursts, not holding the trigger until the barrel melts or bursts). As mentioned above, they are crew-served, usually with at least a gunner and assistant gunner (commonly called an "A-gunner") assigned to the weapon, possibly with one or more ammunition bearers (or "ammo bitch"). It is usually belt-fed, the only exceptions being older designs like the Gatling and Hotchkiss guns. It is usually man-portable, but is a pain in the ass to fire offhand, if it's even possible to do so.
    • A Squad Automatic Weapon (also known as a Light Support Weapon) bridges the gap between a rifle and a machine gun. It is crewed by a single man (if he's lucky, he might get an ammo bitch) and can be magazine- or belt-fed (early versions of the M249 could do both). It can be fired (with some difficulty) offhand and does not need to be emplaced, though most come with a bipod for supported firing. They are intended to give squads or sections sustained automatic firepower without compromising mobility like a larger machine gun would.
    • An infantryman's general-issue weapon (like the M4/M16 and AK-74) are RIFLES. Yes, they are capable of fully automatic fire, but they are not designed for sustained fire. This makes them automatic rifles, not machine guns. They can be called "select-fire" weapons because they have a selector switch that enables/disables full-auto operation. They are designed to be used to neutralize the enemy with accurate fire.
      • Rifles can be subdivided based on their cartridge type into the so-called "battle rifles" (full-sized rifle rounds, like .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO or 7.62x54mmR), and "combat" or "assault rifles" (smaller, so-called "intermediate" cartridges like 7.62/5.45x39 or .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO). Layman and political usage of the above terms frequently eschews the formal definition.
      • Russians for their part call battle and assault rifles first- and second-generation automatic rifles respectively (including the pre-WWII full-sized automatic rifles like the AVS under the first class, which some definitions of battle rifles don't include), though some of their experts note that due to their compact size and the use of smaller intermediate cartridges the 2nd-gen automatic/assault rifles, such as the AK and AR-15 series, would be better characterized as automatic carbines.
    • A submachine gun, or SMG, is an automatic (usually select-fire) weapon chambered in a pistol-caliber round such as 9mm or .45 ACP. It is for that reason that they were originally (and generally inaccurately) called "machine pistols." They are usually lighter and more compact than a rifle. They are designed to overwhelm the enemy at close range with controlled automatic fire. Examples of this type of weapon include the classic M1/M1928 Thompson, M3 Grease Gun, and MP40, as well as the modern MP5, MP7, and P90note .
      • Some people/organizations also refer to compact carbine variants of assault rifles as "submachine guns", since the compact assault rifles are intended to fulfill the same role of submachine guns. This is technically incorrect, since the carbines are still chambered in the same intermediate caliber as the assault rifles they are based on.
  • For shoulder-fired weapons, many people confuse "rocket launchers" with "recoilless rifles", and vice versa. While both weapons may look similar and may be used for similar roles, there is an important difference in their projectiles:
    • Recoilless rifles fire modified artillery shells, which use an explosive propellant charge (like a gun) to launch themselves out the barrel (though some recoilless rifles can fire rocket-assisted projectiles). Essentially, they are like giant guns (or small artillery guns) firing giant bullets.note 
    • A rocket launcher fires a rocket, a projectile with a rocket engine that can propel itself. Rocket launchers can be recoilless, but the important distinction is that their projectiles can propel themselves after leaving the barrel.
  • It seems to be a common failing for guns used in violent crimes to be incorrectly identified by news media until proven otherwise... At which point they'll keep calling it by the wrong name anyway. Here's a slightly exaggerated parody of the phenomenon.
    • American politicians can take this trope to absurd extremes, misidentifying guns, ammunition, gun accessories, gun parts, and everything else even peripherally related. For example, many claim that a pistol grip on a rifle (which does nothing except make the weapon more comfortable for some shooters) somehow makes the gun "more deadly." One California politician actually claimed that incendiary bullets are "heat-seeking bullets made to track and shoot down planes". Another famous incident, complete with viral video, featured another California politician (Kevin De Leon) talking about "stealth ghost guns with thirty-magazine clips," while the police officer assigned to stand on the stage can be seen by the cameras turning to give the politician a priceless "What the fuck are you talking about?" look. That's right, folks, these are the people who make the laws.
    • Most famously, Senator Carolyn McCarthy's infamous "shoulder thing that goes up" comment, which confused gun owners turned into a meme revolving around the Predator's shoulder cannon.
    • Any use of the term "AR-15 assault rifle", as is miserably common in journalism. Aside from the fact that the AR-15 isn't an assault rifle as it does not have a selector switch to allow fully-automatic fire, most weapons referred to as "AR-15"s are not actually the original Colt AR-15 rifle, but rather other weapons based on the AR-15.
    • After the Las Vegas concert massacre, when an Ax-Crazy gunman wielding a ridiculous number of rifles with 100-round magazines with bump stocks attached to them to emulate fully-automatic fire opened fire on concertgoers at a country music festival, some news outlets gave truly insane responses. CBS claimed that the shooter used "automatic rounds", and CNN, to demonstrate a bump stock, showed a rifle with a suppressor and a grenade launcher (illegal for general civilian consumption), rather than a rifle with a bump stock installed. It got worse when people assumed that a bump stock somehow magically turned any rifle into a machine gun. Bump stocks function through active user input (namely, the user's off-hand shoving the entire firearm forward so as to reengage the trigger just after a shot is fired), therefore any self-loading rifle given a bump stock is not a machine gun by legal and technical definition.
      • CNN managed to outdo this one with their special featuring Mark Hertling, a retired Army general, with the producers emphasizing Hertling's military background as proof of his credibility as an expert. Hertling proceeded to describe the AR-15 as a "full-semiautomatic" weapon, prompting a flurry of comments from veterans questioning how long it had been since Hertling actually qualified with a rifle.
      • While introducing a new gun control bill in Congress in September 2019, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee provoked facepalming across the country when she declared, "I held an AR-15 in my hand, I wish I hadn’t. It is as heavy as 10 boxes that you might be moving. And the bullet that is utilized, a .50 caliber..." While the "boxes" measurement is pretty vague, most AR variants weigh between eight and eleven pounds loaded, prompting all kinds of ridicule directed at Lee. Even more ridicule addressed her claim that the AR-15 shoots .50 BMG, which it does not and cannot. That said, AR-15s can be altered to use .50 Beowulf by changing the barrel and bolt carrier group, or just slapping an Alexander Arms upper receiver on a standard lower and call it a day. However, .50 Beowulf is really an oversized pistol cartridge whose ballistics are roughly equivalent to .45-70 Government, not in the same league as .50 BMG. For what it's worth, everyone who heard Lee immediately called her out on her ignorance in mathematics.
    • An American gun magazine parodied this trope by listing several examples of media mistakes, then writing stories around them. For instance a weapon incorrectly identified as a ".44 Luger" was apparently a custom model developed for a World War I-era German soldier famous for his tactic of sneaking up on an enemy trench, then standing up and shouting, "Mach schon, versüß mir den Tag!" The ".22 gauge shotgun" was developed to hunt a rare species of pygmy ducks, and the AK-16 rifle made the writer give up in disgust over how the media can't tell the difference between an M16 and the weapon used by those Dirty Communists.
    • One of the biggest failures in weapons-identification happened when a murderer used a semiautomatic kit gun, which was then misidentified by police as a 3d-printed gun. The weapon in question clearly showed manufacturer markings and had a steel barrel, making the claim that the murder was done with a "ghost gun" completely baseless.
  • You will probably never have to think about vocabulary ever again after high school, but anyone calling a small arm an "assault gun" has made a really stupid mistake. The phrase "assault gun", translated directly from the German word Sturmgeschütz, refers to an armored vehicle that carries a huge artillery piece intended for infantry support when the infantry are on the attack against a fortified position. No, an assault gun is not a firearm or a tank, it is a self-propelled artillery piece.
  • In the summer of 2017, a monument to the late Mikhail Kalashnikov was unveiled in Moscow... featuring a large bust of a German StG-44. That went over about as well as you’d expect.
  • In a melee example, in many media people misnames arming swords as longswords: actual longswords are two-handed swords (while "greatswords" properly refers to even larger swords. In a similar vein, the term "broadsword" is often applied to name large, broad-blades swords while the term technically refers to late arming swords with basket hilts.
    • Rapiers and smallswords are not the same. While both classes are civilian-grade weapons, the former were for servicemen during peacetime while the latter were badges of rank for nobles (and used exclusively for dueling).
  • In certain translations, the Japanese polearm Naginata is called a "halberd", even though "glaive" is a more proper translation.
    • Not every Japanese sword is a katana, as historians will note. Furthermore, any mass-produced Japanese sword dating from between the start of the Showa Era to mid-1945 is deemed a "Showato," and will be confiscated by the modern Japanese government as contraband.

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