The Main Types of Guns: A Simple Guide

Over half of Americans who don’t own guns are interested in acquiring one. Statistically, if you don’t have one, you’re probably interested in buying a gun.

When it comes to owning a gun, the first question you should ask is which gun to buy. The safety, reliability, and practicality of your firearm depend on choosing the best gun for you.

If you’re ready to learn about the most common types of guns, keep reading.

Rifles and Shotguns

Both rifles and shotguns are long-barrelled firearms that require both hands to shoot.

Though similar in appearance and function, rifles and shotguns are different kinds of guns. A rifle gets its name from its rifled bore, which helps the bullet fly straight. Rifles have a barrel of 16 inches or more in length and show up in sporting, hunting, and competitions.

Shotguns are larger, with a minimum bore length of 18 inches. They have a smooth bore (not rifled) and often fire a spray of ammunition with each shot.


Pistols belong to the handgun family, meaning that a shooter can fire it with one hand (although official safety guidelines recommend that you handle it with two). A pistol loads its ammunition through the grip, while the firing chamber and bore are integrated into one short unit.

Pistols encompass a wide range of models — everything from old-timey pirate guns to modern classics like the beretta 92x centurion. If you’re interested in a firearm that’s both practical and stylish, you’ll likely choose something in the pistol family.

Types of Guns by Action

The word “action” comes up frequently when you’re learning facts about guns, but what does it mean?

Simply put, the action is how your gun works with its ammunition. It includes:

  • How you load it
  • How it cocks, or prepares to fire
  • How it extracts the ammunition from its casing
  • How it fires the ammunition

After its size and shape, a gun’s action is its defining feature. When you’re looking into the different kinds of guns, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of all action types.

Pump Action

Picture the old school farm gun that cocks with a chu-chick, and you’re picturing a pump-action gun. These weapons require you to pump the action to reload after every shot. This ejects the empty shell, loads a new one, and re-primes the action.


Similar to a pump-action, bolt-action firearms require you to manually cycle the gun after every discharge. With bolt-action firearms, you complete the cycle by pulling the bolt handle.


Semi-automatic guns are the world’s most popular type of firearm. They only fire one bullet per trigger pull. However, they use the force from the discharge to prime the next bullet, so they don’t require you to manually re-prime the firearm.

Pistols, rifles, and shotguns are all available as semi-automatics. They’re a good all-purpose, no-fuss choice.

The Right Firearm For You

An impractical gun will let you down when you need it. Worse, it can be a safety hazard.

Stay safe by purchasing the right gun for you. With this article, you’ll be able to choose from the types of guns and find one that fits your needs.

Choosing the right gun is only the beginning. Learn more about American gun safety by reading more from our blog.

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