Types of Guns

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.

3 Types of Guns
3 Types of Guns

Please be sure to check your specific state laws regarding the following definitions.

Pistol

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
Pistol Diagram from ATF.gov
Pistol Diagram from ATF.gov

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.

Bunch of Handguns, Actions Open
Bunch of Handguns, Actions Open

Rifle

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
  • Rifle Diagram

Here’s a better close up of the “rifling” where rifles get their name.

Rifling, wikipedia
Rifling, wikipedia

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.

Remington 700 SPS Bolt Action
Remington 700 SPS Bolt Action
Daniel Defense AR-15
Daniel Defense AR-15
AK-47
AK-47

Shotgun

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
  • Shotgun Diagram

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?

Benelli M2, Semi-Automatic Shotgun
Benelli M2, Semi-Automatic Shotgun
Remington Model 870, Pump Shotgun
Remington Model 870, Pump Shotgun
Mossberg 500, Pump Shotgun
Mossberg 500, Pump Shotgun

Conclusion

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.

Here’s an infographic you can save or pin!

types of guns

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6 Comments

  1. In the very first image of the gun, shotgun, and rifle, what is that rifle? Does it have additions or does it come like that?

  2. one of the characteristics listed above of the rifle is it fires only one projectile per pulling of the trigger. there is a difference between marksman rifle which fires only one projectile per pull and assault rifle which fires multiple projectiles per pulling of the trigger.

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