HAM Radio 101

Ham Radio Slang: “Little Pistols” and “Big Guns”

If you’re new to Ham Radio and someone calls you a “Little Pistol,” your first reaction might be, “Well, them’s fightin’ words.” Don’t be offended. It’s just the way Hams refer to those who operate with less powerful stations that can make busting through a pile-up a heck of a lot more problematic. For those who live for the challenge of DXing with less power, being called a Little Pistol is a compliment, especially when you use your technical ingenuity and knowledge of propagation to snag coveted DXCC entities side by side with the “Big Guns.” A “Big Gun” refers to a station equipped with all the bells and whistles, such as massive towers, amplifiers, and large gain antennas. “Medium Pistols” fall somewhere between the two extremes.

Whether you’re working with a Derringer or a Howitzer, DX Engineering carries the gear you need to graduate from Little Pistol to Big Gun, or downgrade from Big Gun to Little Pistol—a familiar scenario for operators who move from antenna farms into restrictive HOAs.


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