There’s tons of types of guns…it really depends how specific you want to get. For us, we consider the three main ones — pistol, rifle, & shotgun. We’ll walk through the main characteristics of each and start to break down sub-categories. Please be sure to check your specific state laws regarding the following definitions.
We will be using “pistol” and “handgun” to mean the same thing. When you start combining federal and general state law, a handgun has the following characteristics:
- Fired from one hand
- No support from the shoulder
- Barrel length of under 16 inches
Subsets of pistols include revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. Below is a good representation of handguns with the one on the right being a revolver while the rest are semi-autos.
Learn more about how to shoot pistols/handguns.
A rifle usually has the following characteristics:
- Fired with two hands
- Braced against the shoulder
- Fires only one projectile with each pull of the trigger
- Barrel has rifling which helps spin and stabilize the bullet
- Barrel length of over 16 inches
Here’s a better close up of the “rifling” where rifles get their name.
We’ll be breaking down rifles into two subsets—bolt action and semi-automatic. Popular bolt actions include the Remington 700 series, while the two most popular semi’s are the AR-15 and AK-47.
Shotguns have smooth barrels to fire a variety of different ammunition. The most common ammo involves lots of metal pellets which spread out. The mishmash of federal and state laws show shotguns to have:
- Fired with two hands while braced against the shoulder
- Fires once per pull of the trigger
- Smooth barrel
- Barrel length of over 18 inches
We’ll consider two main subsets of shotguns with the pump action & semi-automatic. Pump actions require you to physically move the pump handle to chamber fresh shells and remove spent shells. They have the characteristic chung-chung sound you always hear in movies. Semi-automatics usually utilize gas or recoil to move the shells.
The two most popular pumps are the Mossberg 500 series and the Remington 870 series. In the semi-auto world, there are the Benelli’s. Want to learn how to shoot shotguns?
There you have it…a quick primer on pistols, rifles, and shotguns. We’ll cover more of the legal aspects and then finally dive into the specifics for each in future lessons.