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Lock, Stock, and Barrel!

By Shamus Brown
Posted Thursday, February 3, 2005

The other night I was watching a classic western from 1969, Sergio Leone's "Once Upon A Time In The West".

There's a scene in this movie where an auction is being held for the widow Jill's land holdings. In this scene, the auctioneer gavels the auction open by pronouncing that the land is now for sale "lock, stock, and barrel".

Now I have heard this cliché "lock, stock, and barrel" many times before in my life. Haven't you?

I got the gist of its meaning by the context in which it was spoken.

But upon hearing it the other night, I realized that I couldn't put into my own words what the phrase means, or its history if ever asked.

Perhaps "stock" referred to livestock (which are farm animals).

Barrel - well they stored flour, sugar, and a lot of other staples in barrels in the old west.

And lock - maybe that referred to getting the keys to everything or something (I don't know - I am really reaching here on this one).

I thought that this would be a cool thing to read up on and share. So here it is.

"Lock, stock, and barrel" in common usage means you are getting the whole thing or everything inclusive being sold, and no less. My thesaurus shows "finite quantity" as a synonym for this phrase.

The three nouns "Lock, stock, and barrel" refer to the three parts of a musket rifle. Boy was I way off on that.

Stock and barrel make more sense now. A rifle has a barrel that the bullet (or musket ball) flies out of. A rifle also has a wooden stock by which you hold and steady the rifle with.

And lock refers to the firing mechanism of a musket rifle. Turns out the firing mechanism used to be called the firelock.

No way would I have guessed that one.

Lock stock and barrel then refer to getting the whole rifle, not just part of it.

So now you know just what someone means the next time someone tries to sell you a farm lock, stock, and barrel!

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.

About the Author
Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at ( and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at (


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