Ak-47 Kalashnikov Rifle Gun Weapon Russian

This report is supposed to be a 5-minute explanation of gun types currently available to citizens of the United States. I hope to provide a basic understanding for those new or merely interested in the definitions of basic gun types.

For this article, I am not going to be including exotic, army, illegal, homemade, or simulate weapons. This boils down to essentially 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 activity 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 activity refers to being able to cock and fire the weapon with a single trigger pull.

All 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 now have single shot, which are typically bolt action, lever action, or fracture violation, being fed ammo manually, by tube, or clip. Revolvers and semi-automatic weapon automatically load the next round to be fired from the next trigger pull. The words clip and magazine mean the same thing.


The expression handgun refers to handheld weapons which don’t use shoulder stocks. There are single shot, revolvers and semi automatic, and are fed ammo manually, by cylinder, or clip. All kinds can be found in a wide array of calibers. Handguns are usually designed for targets under 100 yards off.


Rifles are designed to accurately fire further than handguns. Over 100 yards, a skilled shooter with the ideal equipment could fire accurately 1000 yards or more. Rifles can be bolt, lever, or semi-automatic, and fed bullets manually, by clip or tube. Rifles also have a wide assortment of calibers available.


Shotguns fall under the rifle category in size, but fire a shell full of shot rather than a bullet. Shells range in gauge and power and may contain a single slug or hundreds of birdshot. Shotguns can be found in fracture violation, bolt, pump and semi-automatic, fed shells manually, by tube or clip. Shotguns are made to shoot a pattern of shot on a short distance.

Also worth a mention are machine guns. Meaning a fully automatic weapon that fires more than 1 round per trigger pull. These aren’t available to the public without licensing.

This is just a name many people unfamiliar with firearms associate with fully automatic weapons. While the army version usually is, civilian versions are not. “Assault Rifle” only refers to a weapon which looks military. It has nothing to do with the capability or function.

I hope this was enlightening. I will discuss, in more detail, each of these kinds of weapons, their individual functionality and uses, calibers, accessories and ammunition in future articles.

Be Safe

Basic Gun Types

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