A tattoo machine or 'tattoo gun'

Tattoo Gun vs Tattoo Machine

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As a tattoo artist’s most essential piece of equipment, finding the right tattoo machine is important. But, did you know that what you search for could be important, too?

Why? Because using the wrong term could be detrimental to your business.

At Barber DTS, we’ve done some digging on a topic that comes up time and time again with tattoo artists worldwide: Is it a tattoo ‘gun’ or a tattoo ‘machine’?

When asked “Do you sell tattoo guns?” we advise that we sell tattoo ‘machines’.   

There are many things that are frowned upon in the tattoo world, such as artists who work on intoxicated clients, artists who fail to follow hygiene standards and those who copy another artist’s work. Referring to a tattoo machine as a tattoo ‘gun’ is another one of those things.  

The phrase is disliked by many tattoo professionals, and, in America, a good tattoo artist could even be quite insulted if someone were to call their tattoo machine a tattoo ‘gun’. This is generally because Americans associate guns with violence, but worldwide, the term is often associated with less experienced tattoo artists.

Members of the general public (or those with limited industry knowledge) have debated for years on forums whether or not calling a tattoo machine a tattoo ‘gun’ should matter – exclaiming that it is in fact OK and should not be a problem at all. However, some professional tattoo artists have likened it to a doctor or nurse using incorrect terms for medical equipment and argue that by calling it a tattoo ‘gun’, you are less educated in the industry and lack passion for the art of tattooing.

A woman with a tattoo sleeve

Simply using the term out loud isn’t the only problem some face. Searching for the term tattoo ‘gun’ online can also become an issue. Someone might end up purchasing a machine which has not undergone the rigorous testing it needs, something which is very important to us here at Barber DTS.

For 120 years, we’ve worked with some of the best and most respected tattoo artists in Europe, so we understand the importance of this topic. We care about providing our customers with the safest technology possible, which is why the equipment we stock – from tattoo furniture and tattoo machines, to tattoo needles and ink cartridges – are from the most reputable brands in the industry.

A tattooed man drawing in a sketchpad

Becoming a successful tattoo artist doesn’t happen overnight. With the industry becoming more and more competitive, it can take artists years of persistence, dedication and hard work to make it to the top, and once you’re there, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest technology. From new and innovate tattoo machines to more traditional machines, knowing the difference between high-quality and not-so-high-quality equipment is vital. So as a starter, don’t get caught out with bad terminology!

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Meet Our Experts

Chris Harrison Tattoo Artist

Chris Harrison

Bridgend Tattoo Studio

Bridgend, South Wales, UK

Sneaky-Mitch, tattooist at Gold Room Tattoo, Leeds, UK


Gold Room Tattoo

Leeds, UK

Tito Inkid

L’Atelier Sans Nom

Armentières, France

Lianne Moule

Immortal Ink
Chelmsford, UK

Julian ‘Corpsepainter’ Siebert

Corpse Painter Tattoo
Munich, Germany

Alex Rattray

Empire Ink
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

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