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A Comprehensive Look Into the Different Types of Guns

The first recorded use of a firearm was in 1364. Though these early guns were much more challenging to use and much less effective than today’s firearms, they nonetheless changed the world forever. For better or worse. 

Since those early days, the accuracy and efficiency of guns have significantly improved. And today, we have a variety of different types of guns aimed at accomplishing different goals. If you’re fascinated by guns and want to learn more, then continue reading, and we’ll walk you through the most important types you need to know about. 

The Two Main Types of Guns

There are a variety of ways that you can breakdown and categorize gun types. So we’ll start with the broadest approach to categorize them and then get more specific from there. 

There are two main types of guns. You have long guns (or rifles) and handguns. Handguns are typically broken down further into semi-autos and revolvers. Long guns are usually compartmentalized into semi-autos, lever action, shotguns, and bolt action.

Long Guns

To put it simply, a long gun is a type of gun that has a relatively long barrel. Generally, the shooter has to hold the gun with both their hands and brace the gun against their shoulder. A handgun, as the name implies, can be fired easily with just one hand. 

Semi-Automatic Rifles

There is a lot of confusion and controversy today revolving around semi-automatic weapons, and semi-auto rifles in particular. The AR 15 is probably the most famous and controversial version of this type of firearm. It’s certainly one of the most popular, as it’s estimated that there are over 15 million AR 15 rifles currently in the homes of American gun owners. 

But what exactly is a semi-automatic rifle? Contrary to what the media says, a semi-automatic rifle is not an assault weapon. An assault rifle, by definition, is a fully automatic, rapid-fire, machine gun. 

This means that when you pull on the gun’s trigger, it will automatically fire continuously until it runs out of ammo or you remove your finger from the trigger. An AR 15 trigger does not work like this. 

A semi-automatic gun has an action that will cycle automatically. That means it ejects and rechambers a new round after each shot is fired. However, after each shot, the shooter must manually release the trigger and recock the sear before pulling the trigger again. 

The biggest benefit of using a semi-automatic rifle is that you increase your chances of hitting a target in a shorter timeframe. However, semi-automatic firearms tend to be more expensive.


A lever-action firearm is a type of gun that utilizes a lever to load new cartridges into the barrel’s chamber when the lever is pressed. The lever is located near the trigger guard area. This makes the lever-action rifle unique when compared to pump-action, selective-fire, bolt action, and semi-automatic long guns. 

Although most lever-action guns are rifles, there are some pistol and shotguns that are also lever-action. After a lever-action rifle is cocked, the only way to uncock the gun is to squeeze the trigger while holding down the hammer. This is extremely difficult for beginning shooters to accomplish properly and can be very dangerous to attempt.

One of the biggest challenges with using these kinds of rifles is that they are difficult to use properly when in the prone position. This is one of the reasons why they’re not used often by military personnel. Also, the type of ammunition that can be used in a lever-action rifle is limited because most of these guns use tubular magazines. 

However, they’re popular among gun enthusiasts because they tend to have shorter barrels and a higher rate of fire than bolt-action rifles. 


With a bolt-action rifle, the cartridges are manually put into and taken out of the gun by handling the bold directly. The shooter uses a handle to manipulate the bolt. Once a shooter operates the handle, the bolt is then unlocked from the gun’s receiver. 

The bolt then opens up the breach, which allows for the used cartridge to come out, and a new cartridge can then be loaded into the gun’s chamber. 

Most bolt-action guns are repeating rifles. These are rifles with just one barrel that can discharge repeated following the reloading of a single cartridge. These guns differ from self-loading guns, which use the blowback and recoil of the prior shot for cycling the action and loading the next cartridge. 


Rifles and shotguns have barrels that are rifled. This means that inside of the barrel, there are grooves that are cut lengthwise. Those grooves lead the bullet to spin as it’s fired, which helps the bullet to travel faster and shoot straighter. 

The majority of shotguns aren’t rifled. With normal ammunition like steel or lead shot, a barrel that is rifled would cause the various shot pieces to bunch up together into a closer pattern. This would defeat the main purpose of shooting a shotgun.

This is because a shotgun, unlike a handgun and rifle, doesn’t just fire one single bullet. Instead, a shotgun fires multiple pellets, known as “shot.” As the pellets exit the barrel, they spread out. 

Shotguns are short-range weapons. When you fire a shotgun, the energy of the shot decreases as it moves away from the barrel because the power of one cartridge has been divided into many pellets. 

The three types of shotgun ammo are birdshot, buckshot, and slugs. Birdshot, as the name implies, is usually used for hunting birds. Buckshot is bigger than birdshot and is usually used for hunting small game and self-defense. 

Slugs are basically big bullets. You only fire one slug at a time, and the bullet themselves are rifled. These are typically used for big game and police purposes. 


A handgun has a short barrel and can be held with just one hand. Most handguns can be categorized as either semi-automatic pistols or revolvers. Let’s look at their differences below. 

Semi-Automatic Pistol

A semi-automatic pistol relies on the power of the slide in order to cycle a new round into the chamber. Ammo is loaded into a magazine and then slides into the mag well of the pistol. When the slide moves backward and then forward, a new round is chamber and automatically prepares the gun to fire by cocking the hammer or priming the striker.

A semi-automatic pistol can come as a double-action or single-action gun. 

A semi-automatic pistol has just one firing chamber. That chamber stays fixed in a linear position that’s relative to the barrel of a gun. Some double-action pistols can be semi-automatic, but they have two chambers. 

Usually, the first round is loaded manually into the chamber by pulling the slide mechanism back and then releasing it. Once the trigger is pulled, the round is fired, and then the recoil operation extracts and ejects the shell casing. It then reloads the chamber. 

A semi-automatic pistol is advantageous as you can reload faster and store more cartridges than you could with a revolver. 


The first revolver was manufactured by Samuel Colt in 1835. It was a watershed moment for handguns and completely changed the way guns were designed. So what exactly is a revolver?

A revolver has a rotating cylinder that usually can hold up to five or six shots. The movement of the trigger or cocking of the hammer leads the cylinder to rotate. This brings the upcoming cartridge in line with the barrel.

A revolver can be either single-action or double-action depending on the design and build. You can unload and load a revolver via the cylinder. You can’t add any capacity to a revolver that is more than what the cylinder can hold. 

The Importance of Knowing the Different Types of Guns

As we can clearly see from the article above, there are all different types of guns out there. Each of these guns comes with specific advantages and disadvantages. If you’re considering buying a gun, you shouldn’t go out and purchase the first firearm that you come across.

Instead, you must first assess what your goals are.

Are you looking to do some hunting or mainly competition shooting? Are you a casual shooter? Or are you just looking to protect yourself and your family?

It’s also important that you know your state and local laws so that you’re always obeying the law. Once you have all of this figured out, you should review the various types of guns and then decide which type will be best for your situation.

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