A super quick explanation of how guns work.
We’ll begin with the easy definition of what is a gun, different components of the bullet cartridge, some gun actions, and loading mechanisms.
Table of Contents
What is a Gun?
At its core, guns are things that launch projectiles of some sort at high speed. The first guns were just tubes with explosives and a projectile…think cannons.
Modern guns have come a long way.
What most people think of as “bullets” are actually “cartridges” that include the bullet, a casing, powder, and a primer.
Of course there’s TONS of different calibers (size of bullets).
The primer is first ignited causing a small explosion, which then burns the rest of the powder, creating lots of pressure that moves the bullet out of the gun.
The bullet is just the projectile that shoots out of a gun, not the entire object.
To get a lot more in-depth…check out our Ammo 101: How Cartridges Work.
And here are cross-sections of a variety of pistol/rifle cartridges. Not to scale with each other.
And some cutaways for the different types of shotgun shells.
For more info:
How Guns Work
Different types of guns have different mechanisms of how to ignite the primer to burn the gunpowder, but there is almost always a rounded metal object called the “firing pin” which strikes the primer and starts the process.
Modern smokeless powders don’t even burn that fast…it’s the pressure of the confined space of the chamber that gives it the oomph to move the bullet down the barrel.
Below you can see that the firing pin is attached to a “hammer” in a revolver.
While in a rifle it could be by itself and held in a “bolt.”
Here’s some of me shooting!
Most guns will have a mechanism that gets rid of the spent casing and moves in a fresh cartridge.
Some of these include manual actions, using the recoil from the explosion, or using expended gas from the explosion. We’ll go over these in detail in further lessons. But for now, here’s some slow-motion of guns in action.
Looking for a comprehensive handgun video course that only goes over the most important stuff…with none of the attitude? Check out our very own Gun Noob to Gun Slinger course.
Want some of our gun suggestions?
18 Leave a Reply
I just took a CWP class and want a Revolver. What would you suggest for a great gun for Both Concealed Carry And Target shooting ?? I’m 71 , and giving my GLOCK 9mm to my son because my thumbs are shot and weak hand strength makes it too hard to load the bullets or slide the GLOCK!! Money is no object !!! Thanks Greg
Take a look at the S&W Shield EZ9, specially designed for easy loading and easy racking. My wife and I both use this as a carry gun and home protection with high performance self defense rounds. DO NOT confuse with the regular Shield, it is NOT easy to rack.
what is the difference single action, double action
single action the trigger does not cock the hammer it just relates it, double action cocks the hammer and releases it its also a lot heavier and longer trigger pull.
I really feel like i should be paying for this info. THANK U SO MUCH!!
This was very interesting. Thank you for helping me understand what my gun is all about.
Very well explained
Very well done. In-depth enough to remain informative but barebones enough to not be confusing. The diagram you added on an automatic rifle's gas blowback system was particularly good. It's as if you could imagine the gun firing and walking through the steps just looking at it.
I'm a newbie and I like this! Thank you.
Hey GREAT website, but navigating through these "chapters" in the TUTORIALS, is kinda clunky.
It would be nice if the chapter sections had a Next button to continue on at the end. (maybe even a Back button)
Im 15 and i'm really interested in guns and i'm glad I found this site it's a great learning experience.
Thanks so much Chris!!
Your "cross section of a shotgun cartridge" isn't. :-/ It's a shotshell for use in a handgun.
Hi FT, you are correct. I've fixed it and thanks so much for catching it.