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One of the scenes in the Boot Camp section of Full Metal Jacket has the recruits marching their barracks holding their rifle in one hand and their crotch in the other, chanting "This is my rifle, this is my gun; this is for fighting this is for fun".

I think I understand the purpose of this drill in the narrative of the movie, but what on earth could be its military use?

6

A gun is the weapon of the street. Street thugs don't care for their guns, they don't clean them, and they throw them away after using them to kill. A gun is the thing a child used to shoot cans, squirrels, or other game, game that can not harm you back.

A professional, a Marine or a Soldier, is trained that while they may have used 'guns' back at home to shoot squirrels or cans, a rifle is assigned to them, cared for by them, kept close by at all times, used to kill an enemy combatant, someone who can kill you, and is not to be carelessly handled, dropped, etc. A rifle becomes part of them. The rifle will save their lives and the lives of their platoon mates. The rifle is cleaned first, before the marine, even before eating or sleeping. A dirty rifle may misfire and a misfire can kill you, or worse, your fellow troops.

At this point, the only 'gun' left to the marine, is the one in their pants, to be used for pleasure only.

I, too, performed a drill much like the one shown, when in Army boot camp, in 1985.

11

In USMC culture, a "gun" is a large artillery piece, and this chant (which is apparently genuinely used by Marines) is to train the new recruits not to make the civilian mistake of referring to a rifle as a gun.

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    Hah, reminds me of Scent of a Woman when Charlie says "Where'd you get the gun, Colonel?" only to get corrected by Marine Col. Slade saying "Piece or weapon, Charlie, never a gun." – Napoleon Wilson Aug 24 '13 at 12:03
  • Do you have a source that says it is genuinely used by Marines? – Flimzy Aug 24 '13 at 16:09
  • Nothing I consider authoritative, hence my hedging and using the word "apparently" - sorry! – James McLeod Aug 24 '13 at 16:30
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    In fact Sean Penn also references this line in DePalma's excellent Vietnam treatment Casualties of War. Though, this might as well have been a reference to Full Metal Jacket in particular (even if that was released only two years before). – Napoleon Wilson Jun 5 '14 at 23:32
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This is not merely Marines but a universal correction administered in military training. We could refer to the rifle as a rifle, or a weapon, but NEVER a gun.

So this chant, along with the "dying cockroach position" or the "front-leaning rest position" were part of the atmosphere of any training unit in the 1960's and 1970's at least in the Vietnam Era.

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    I can confirm for you that all of those terms were used well into the 1980's (at least for the Army). I wouldn't be surprised if they are still used today. – John Jan 10 '17 at 18:56
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The purpose is so that the soldiers will psychologically differentiate their weapon from their genitalia. Obviously male genitalia comes in different shapes and sizes, they don't want soldiers equating any er, "shortcomings" with their ability and efficiency as riflemen.

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    I have never heard of this before...ever. This phrase is used because in the military you are to refer to your gun as your "rifle" or "weapon." You are never to call it a gun. A "gun" has a completely different meaning in the military. That's why. Answers provided without sourced information will more than likely be flagged here. So, if you know this as fact, please state your source and not just a guess or an opinion. – steelersquirrel Apr 17 '17 at 18:58

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