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Behind the Name: Guns Named After Animals

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April 11 is National Pet Day. Most people have a dog, cat, fish or some other animal as a pet. Humans are fascinated with animals. We all can remember what our favorite animal was growing up —from lions to sharks to snakes. So it’s not surprising we name sports teams, cars and guns after creatures. But there is more to choosing a name for a team or product than simply a fondness for animals.

It’s called anthropomorphism (an· thruh· puh· mor· fi· zm). Yes, it’s a mouthful. But the meaning is less complicated than the word is to pronounce. “Defining anthropomorphism is relatively straightforward,”  Dr. Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago declared. “[I]t is simply perceiving humanlike traits in nonhuman agents.” In layman’s terms, it’s giving desirable humanlike traits to inanimate objects. These traits don’t have to be exclusively from humans; they can also be from animals.

‘The Sign of the Cat’

Naming professional sports teams after animals is common. Atlanta chose a falcon for its football team because of its proud and dignified manner, courage, and fighting prowess. Panthers are powerful, sleek and strong. Lions are the monarchs of the jungle. Detroit hoped selecting a lion as a mascot would propel the team to becoming the leaders of the NFL. (Unfortunately, this aspiration hasn’t been fulfilled.) Dolphins are one of the fastest and smartest sea creatures on the planet. These animals were selected to inspire and motivate.

Like sports teams, companies use animal symbolism for benefit. The 1964 Ford Mustang was the first “pony car.” (Or the Plymouth Barracuda, depending on who you ask.) The name was reportedly selected to associate the vehicle with a horse racing through the countryside. The cougar was a vital part of Mercury’s marketing strategy. Its TV commercials featured a real cougar sitting in a car accompanied by a beautiful woman. A cougar evokes sleekness, sexiness and ferociousness. The architects of the 1935 SS Jaguar 2.5l Saloon added jaguar to the car’s name to embody elegance, power and agility.

Serpents, Bulldogs and Raptors

Naming products after animals applies to gun manufacturers too. Colt produced a series of revolvers known as the “snake guns” — Python, Diamondback, Cobra, Anaconda, King Cobra, Boa and Viper. These reptiles are deadly and exotic, likely the symbolism Colt was going for. The same can be said for why SIG Sauer chose to name its .45 pistol after an emperor scorpion. The Chiappa Rhino’s frame is made of Ergal, an aluminum alloy tough like a rhinoceros’ skin. Charter Arms likely named the Bulldog revolver after its predecessor, the Webley British Bull Dog. Webley revolvers, like bulldogs, were known for their stubby, compact design. Taurus’ Raging Bull .454 revolver mimics the strength and power of an enraged bull. The Kimber Raptor got its name for its aggressive slide and frame serrations, feathered logo grips and finish accents.

Some other guns named after animals worth mentioning include:

  • Beretta Silver Pigeon
  • Beretta Gold Mallard
  • Para Warthog
  • Dan Wesson Bruin (Bear)
  • Springfield Armory Hellcat
  • Browning Buck Mark
  • Ruger Blackhawk

If you own a gun named after an animal or creature, it wasn’t done inadvertently. This is what the gun maker intended. You don’t see a gun named sugar glider or guinea pig, do you? These cute, cuddly animals wouldn’t evoke reliability, durability, power or deadliness like a scorpion, raptor or rhino. What guns or other products do you own named after an animal?

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