lock and load

From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Attested since at least 1793, when a document describes flintlock weapons that are ready to fire as "well locked and loaded".[1] The variant "load(ed) and lock(ed)" is found since at least 1815.[2] The phrase may have originated from the use of gunlocks on naval artillery (in use by the Royal Navy since 1745); as gunlocks were not required for firing (a lintstock could be used) it may have been necessary to specify cannon was "locked" as well as loaded.

As an imperative, used since at least 1940, in the U.S. Army Field Manual for the M1 Rifle.[3] Compare e.g. German "laden und sichern" ("load and secure").[4] Popularized in culture after being used by John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).


  • (file)


lock and load

  1. (US, slang) A command to prepare a weapon for battle.
  2. (US, slang) Prepare for an imminent event.


lock and load (third-person singular simple present locks and loads, present participle locking and loading, simple past and past participle locked and loaded)

  1. (US, slang) To prepare one's weapon.
  2. (US, slang) To prepare for an imminent event.
    • 2015, Fay Jacobs, Time Fries!: Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach, page 67:
      It's great to know that city and town governments, all up and down the East Coast, were ready, locked and loaded, to provide bailouts, and this time it was the literal kind.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A record from 6 August 1793 from the British colony of New Brunswick says "afterwards Carvell brought in two musquets [sic] and Justice Hubbard asked him if the guns were well locked and loaded." See Documents of Old Congregational Church at Maugerville, Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, volume 1 (Saint John, NB: Daily Telegraph Steam Book and Job Print, 1894), page 147 (archive.org).
  2. ^ The transposition "loaded and locked" is used by Walter Scott in 1815, unambiguously in reference to a flintlock pistol. See Guy Mannering; or, The Astrologer, volume 3 (Edinburgh: James Ballantyne and Co, 1815), page 278 (archive.org).
  3. ^ "The instructor, after announcing the range and the position to be used, commands: 1. with dummy cartridges, lock and load...". United States War Department, FM 23-5 Basic Field manual: U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1940), pages 60 and 71 (archive.org). The transposed form "load and lock" is known since at least 1899 when Captain John A. Baldwin reports "the order was given to load and lock pieces". United States War Department, Annual reports of the War Department for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1900, part 3, page 337 (link to cited page at archive.org).
  4. ^ Francis J. Behr (trans.), Drill Regulations for the Infantry, German Army, 1906, (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1907), page 24 (archive.org).