This article is meant to be a 5-minute explanation of legal gun types currently available to citizens of the United States. I hope to provide a basic understanding for those new or just interested in the definitions of basic gun types.
For this article, I am not going to be including exotic, military, illegal, homemade, or prototype weapons. This boils down to basically 3 categories: Handguns, Rifles, and Shotguns. First, however, there are a few terms that apply to all three types. I’ll cover those first.
Single action refers to a pull of the trigger firing one round after the weapon is cocked, either manually, or by gas blowback of a previously fired round.
Double action refers to being able to cock and fire the weapon with a single trigger pull.
All of the weapons below are available in single or double action. Semi-automatics are also available in double/single action. Meaning the first trigger pull is double action and all subsequent pulls are single action.
We have single shot, which are typically bolt action, lever action, or break breach, being fed ammo manually, by tube, or clip. Revolvers and semi-automatic weapon automatically load the next round to be fired by the next trigger pull. Ammo is held in the cylinder or fed by tube or clip. The words clip and magazine mean the same thing.
The term handgun refers to handheld weapons that don’t use shoulder stocks. These range in size from derringers, to subcompacts, compacts, full size, and specialty weapons. There are single shot, revolvers and semi-automatic, and are fed ammo manually, by cylinder, or clip. All types are available in a wide range of calibers. Handguns are usually designed for targets under 100 yards away.
This refers to weapons with a shoulder stock, and a barrel over 16 inches long. Rifles are designed to accurately fire further than handguns. Over 100 yards, a skilled shooter with the right equipment could fire accurately 1000 yards or more. Rifles can be bolt, lever, or semi-automatic, and fed bullets manually, by tube or clip. Rifles also have a wide range of calibers available.
Shotguns fall under the rifle category in size, but fire a shell filled with shot as opposed to a bullet. Shells range in gauge and power and can contain a single slug or hundreds of birdshot. Shotguns are available in break breach, bolt, pump and semi-automatic, fed shells manually, by tube or clip. Shotguns are designed to fire a pattern of shot over a short distance.
Also worth a mention are machine guns. Meaning a fully automatic weapon that fires more than one round per trigger pull. These are not available to the public without extensive licensing.
Another honorable mention is Assault Weapons. This is just a name many people unfamiliar with guns associate with fully automatic weapons. While the military version usually is, civilian versions are not. “Assault Rifle” merely refers to a weapon that looks military. It has nothing to do with the function or capability.
I hope this has been informative. I will discuss, in more detail, each of these types of weapons, their respective functionality and uses, calibers, ammunition and accessories in future articles.