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Types Of Guns: Everything You Need To Know About Handguns, Rifles, & Shotguns

There are a wide variety of firearms available, but we can simplify them into three main categories:

  1. Handguns
  2. Rifles
  3. Shotguns

In this article, we will delve into each of these gun types and their subtypes, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of these firearms. Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or a beginner, this knowledge will undoubtedly impress your fellow enthusiasts at the shooting range. However, always make sure to familiarize yourself with your local state’s firearm laws for any additional information.

Handguns: The Basics

Let’s start our journey by exploring the world of handguns. A handgun is a firearm designed to be held and fired with a single hand, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Here are the defining characteristics of a handgun:

  1. Short Barrel: Typically, handguns have a barrel length of less than 9 inches.
  2. No Stock: Unlike rifles, handguns do not have a stock for firing support.
  3. Compact: The compact nature of handguns allows for single-handed accuracy.

Handguns come in various sizes:

  1. Micro: Extremely compact handguns with barrels measuring 3 inches or less, perfect for pocket carry.
  2. Sub-Compact: Slightly larger than micro handguns, with barrel lengths between 3 to 4 inches.
  3. Compact: These handguns have barrel lengths ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 inches.
  4. Full Size: The largest category of handguns, with barrel lengths between 4 to 5+ inches, suitable for various shooting applications.

Different Types Of Handguns

  1. Semi-Automatic Pistols: The most common type of handgun seen in action movies. They utilize a magazine to feed ammunition into the chamber automatically after each shot, making them quick and efficient.
  2. Revolvers: Simplicity at its best. Revolvers were the first type of handguns in production. They feature a rotating cylinder that holds the rounds. Cocking the hammer aligns the next round for firing.
    • Single Action: The hammer must be manually cocked, and pulling the trigger releases it to strike the primer, firing the round.
    • Double Action: Pulling the trigger both cocks the hammer and release it, firing the round. Modern revolvers often have both double and single-action capabilities.
    • Double Action Only: These revolvers don’t have an exposed hammer and require only a trigger pull to fire.
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Rifles: A Deeper Look

Now let’s turn our attention to rifles. A rifle is a long-barreled firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder. It utilizes the energy of an explosive to fire a single projectile through a rifled bore. The rifling in the bore imparts spin to the bullet, enhancing accuracy and range.

Different Types Of Rifles

  1. Bolt Action Rifles: These rifles require manually operating a bolt to feed and eject rounds. Bolt actions are known for their precision and are commonly used in long-range shooting.
  2. Lever Action Rifles: Popularized by the likes of John Wayne in classic Western films, these rifles feature a lever that chambers a new round when operated.
  3. Semi-Automatic Rifles: Instead of manual effort, the gas released after firing a round automatically cycles the action, chambering a new round. They offer rapid-fire capabilities.
  4. Fully Automatic Rifles: These rifles can continuously fire rounds as long as the trigger is held down. However, owning fully automatic rifles is heavily regulated and typically limited to military and law enforcement personnel.

Shotguns: The Versatile Firearms

Finally, let’s explore the world of shotguns. A shotgun, like a rifle, is designed to be fired from the shoulder. However, it differs in two critical aspects:

  1. Cartridge: Shotguns use “shotshells” that contain multiple pellets (shot) or a single slug. The pellets spread out upon firing, making them effective for close-range shooting.
  2. Bore: Unlike rifles, shotguns have a smooth bore, meaning the inside of the barrel lacks rifling. This allows the shot to spread effectively without spin.

Different Types Of Shotguns

  1. Break-Action Shotguns: These simple shotguns allow you to break the barrel and load a single shell at a time.
  2. Pump-Action Shotguns: Popular in movies and TV shows, pump-action shotguns allow you to load multiple shells, and each pump chambers a new round.
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With this comprehensive guide, you now have an in-depth understanding of the major types of guns and their uses. From the sleek design of handguns to the precision of rifles and the versatility of shotguns, each firearm category has its unique features and applications. Remember to handle firearms responsibly and always prioritize safety.


Q1. Are fully automatic rifles legal for civilians to own?

Fully automatic rifles are heavily regulated and typically reserved for military and law enforcement personnel. Ordinary civilians can only own them with special licenses and certifications, which are difficult to obtain.

Q2. What is the difference between single-action and double-action revolvers?

Single-action revolvers require the shooter to manually cock the hammer before firing, while double-action revolvers can cock the hammer and release it with a single trigger pull.

Q3. Can shotguns fire slugs instead of pellets?

Yes, some shotguns can fire slugs, which are single bullets enclosed in a shotgun shell. This allows for more precise shooting at longer distances.

Q4. Which type of handgun is best for concealed carry?

For concealed carry, many prefer the sub-compact or micro handguns due to their compact size and ease of concealment.

Q5. What is the difference between a rifle and a shotgun?

The primary difference lies in the bore and cartridge used. Rifles have rifled bores and fire single bullets, while shotguns have smooth bores and typically fire multiple pellets or a single slug.

Q6. How many types of guns are there?

There are five main types of guns including handguns, rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, and machine guns.

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Q7. What is the most common gun?

The most common type of gun owned in the United States is the handgun, followed by shotguns and rifles.

Q8. What type of gun is an AK47?

The AK-47 is an assault rifle type of gun that is gas-operated and magazine-fed.

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