The reason most people get hurt with firearms is that they do not understand how they work. This page explains the basics of how different types of firearms function.

Parts of a Bullet

Bullet parts All firearms have one thing in common: they shoot bullets. But what is a bullet? A bullet is actually only one part of a cartridge which has several main components:

  • Casing
    • The casing, also called "brass" or "shell," is the piece that holds all the other pieces together.
  • Primer
    • The primer is a small cap in the rear of the casing. When struck firmly by the firing pin, it created a small explosion. This explosion then ignites the gun powder.
  • Powder
    • When the primer ignites the gunpowder, it creates an explosion. Like any explosion, it tries to expand in all directions equally, seeking the path of least resistance. The design of a firearm is such that the path of least resistance is to push the bullet out the end of the casing and down the barrel.
  • Bullet
    • This is the part that actually leaves the gun. It is pushed down the barrel due to the explosion caused by the exploding powder.

      Bullet 1 Bullet 2 Bullet 3 Bullet 4

Handgun Action

  • There are 4 types of handgun action:
    • Handgun Action
    • Break-Action Pistol
      • A break-action pistol (or rifle) refers to a single shot firearm that folds or "breaks" open to load and reload.
    • Semi-Automatic Pistol
      • This type of pistol holds a magazine or preloaded ammo. It must initially be chambered with the first round by pulling the slide back and releasing it. Once chambered, it is now ready to be fired. For each round fired, part of the energy of the powder exploding is used to automatically re-chamber the next round. When the last round from a magazine is fired, most semi-autos lock the slide in the open position. Using inadequate ammo or a dirty firearm can cause a semi-auto to jam. Always use good ammo and always clean your firearms after shooting!
        Removing of the magazine does not render a firearm safe. There can always be a round still in the chamber.
        Most weapons that are called automatics are actually semi-automatics. A fully automatic weapon is a machine-gun. The news media either overlooks this or ignores it, instead favoring sensationalism over accuracy.
    • Single Action Revolver
      • This is the original cowboy gun. The hammer was manually cocked back for each shot. Though not common, some revolvers are still made using this type of action.
    • Double Action Revolver
      • This is the same as a single action revolver with the additional benefit of not having to manually cock the hammer back prior to each shot. Simply pulling the trigger will cock the hammer. Continuing to pull the trigger will discharge the revolver. Note that this takes more effort to use this "double-action," so for the best accuracy, manually cocking the hammer is best. Revolvers cannot jam and do not have safeties (they are inherently safe).

Parts of a Handgun

  • Below are the parts of a revolver or pistol:
    • Handgun Action

Parts of a Rifle

  • Below are the parts of a bolt-action rifle:
    • Handgun Action
  • Semi-automatic Rifle
      Similar to a semi-automatic pistol, a semi-auto rifle uses a magazine and automatically rechambers itself after each round.