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Do you want to learn firearm basics? Whether you plan on hunting, target shooting, or educating yourself on gun safety, understanding the basics of firearms is key.

This guide will cover all the basic terminology related to firearms; gun types, firearm actions, bullet sizes and more.

Firearm basics, learning types of guns and their components.

Firearm Basics

Firearm basics refer to a wide range of topics, such as knowing the different types of firearms, their components and how they work, safe use and firearm storage as well as safe ammo storage practices, and laws and regulations governing their use.

It is important for anyone who has or intends to handle firearms – whether for sport, hunting or self-defense purposes – to have an understanding of them.

Acquainting oneself with firearm basics will help move one toward ownership while helping to reduce the possibility of accidents or injury. Knowledge is power.

Get ready to learn about some firearm basics!

Gun Types

Gun types are divided into three main categories: handguns, rifles, and shotguns.


The first gun type is the all familiar handgun. Handguns are small, portable firearms that are designed to be fired with one hand.

These weapons can range from simple single-shot and single action pistols to larger revolvers and semi-automatic pistols.

They are usually used for self-defense, concealed carry, and sport shooting due to their ease of use and portability.

Handguns feature a rotating cylinder or magazine that holds the assembled cartridges which must be loaded manually.

Also see: Single Action vs Double Action


The second gun type is a rifle. Rifles are longer guns with rifled barrels which give spin to the bullet for improved accuracy. They are designed to be shot from the shoulder and are widely used for hunting, long range hunting, sports shooting, and military activities.

Unlike handguns, rifles usually display improved accuracy over longer distances due to their extended barrel and stock.

Several rifle types exist such as bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, and semi-automatic.

Hunters, target shooters, and military personnel favor rifles for their maximize accuracy at long range shooting along with optional attachments such as scopes or bipods.


Our final common gun type you’ll find in hunting and sport shooting is the shotgun. Shotguns are weapons that fire shells with multiple projectiles inside. They fire what is called shot and are mainly used for sports or hunting activities.

Shot is the most common type of ammo used with a shotgun, but slugs made specifically for shotguns can be used as well.

The spread of pellets, or shot, is suitable for hunting, sport shooting and self-defense due to its effectiveness in short range use.

Break-action, pump-action, semi-automatic and bolt-action are the various types of shotguns available.

Its versatility, efficiency and varied ammunition type make it a go-to choice for many shooters.

Birdshot for bird hunting such as pheasant hunting, buckshot for hunting deer, and slugs which are also used for big game can be fired from shotguns to suit different needs.

Also check out guns in the civil war for a historical look at shotguns and revolvers.

Firearm Actions

There are several differing types of firearms actions, which are the mechanisms used to load and discharge a gun.

Common action types include single-shot, bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, semi-automatic and fully automatic.

Single-shot guns use a break action or bolt action to load one round at a time.

Revolver firearms actions are a rotating cylinder that holds several cartridges. Each time the trigger is pulled, the cylinder rotates, aligning a new cartridge with the barrel for firing.

Bolt-action rifles open the bolt to expose the chamber for loading and must be operated manually between shots.

Lever-action weapons require the user to slide a lever down below the trigger in order to eject the spent cartridge case and rechamber one round of ammunition.

Pump-action weapons cycle cartridges by sliding a forend back and forth while depressing an ejector button on top of the barrel..

Break-action firearms have a hinged barrel that pivots open, allowing the shooter to load and eject cartridges manually. This includes gun types such as the double-shot or double barrel shotgun.

Semi-automatic firearms use the energy from the fired cartridge to cycle the action, which extracts and ejects the spent casing and loads a new cartridge into the chamber. The trigger must be pulled for each shot, but the firearm automatically loads the next cartridge.

Automatic firearms fires multiple rounds with a single pull of the trigger, as long as the trigger is held down.


Ammunition is an integral part of a firearm, as it is what is loaded into the gun to make it operational.

It comes in different calibers, which denotes the size of bullet or projectile that will be fired.

In addition, there are various types of ammunition available, such as full metal jacket, hollow point, and more.

Using the appropriate type and caliber of ammunition for the intended purpose is essential – incorrect ammunition can be dangerous or less effective.

For safety purposes, it is important to store and handle ammunition according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Recommended: What are the Basic Parts of Ammunition, for a more in-depth look at firearm ammunition.

Bullet Sizes

Bullet size, also known as caliber, refers to the diameter of the projectile or bullet that is fired from a firearm. Bullet sizes are typically measured in inches or millimeters.

The size of the bullet can have a significant impact on the performance and effectiveness of the firearm. Generally, smaller bullets are used for handguns and larger bullets for rifles and shotguns.

Popular calibers or bullet sizes vary based on their intended use and the size of the cartridge case.

Some of the popular rifle and shotgun caliber sizes are .22 LR, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester, .45-70 Government, 12 Gauge (shotgun), and 20 Gauge (shotgun).

Most centerfire pistol cartridges are measured in millimeters such as 9mm Luger, .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), 10mm Auto, and .357 Magnum.

A rimfire cartridge has a primer located inside the base at the rim of the cartridge case. Common rimfire cartridges are .22 LR (Long Rifle) and 17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire).

Once you narrow down your intended use, you’ll be able to choose the proper caliber as they vary widely based on what game you plan to hunt or what type of target shooting you plan on doing.

Firearm Basics: Storage, Maintenance, and Safety

The first thing about firearm basics is safety. Before browsing for guns, take a safety course. I repeat, go sign up for a firearm safety course. It’s important.

Then you can think about purchasing your first gun. Firearm laws near you must be followed. Do your due diligence!

Additionally, for firearm basics, proper storage and maintenance is essential to ensure safe use. It’s important to check your gun for any signs of wear or damage before using it, each and every time, and regularly inspect for any loose parts or anything out of the ordinary.

Storing guns in a secure location away from children and unauthorized users is also key, as well as ensuring other safety protocols such as not leaving ammunition unattended or near the firearm itself.

The same goes for ammo, proper ammunition storage is very important.

Furthermore, if cleaning your gun make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions accordingly and use the proper tools and materials to avoid damaging it.

Firearm safety is in your hands. Take the classes, take continuing education courses, study the safety, get a proper safe, proper personal protection equipment like earmuffs, eye protection etc…

Store your guns and ammo safely away from one another. Always know your surroundings, never point a gun at anyone, ever.

You are responsible for the safety of yourself and everyone around you while handling and owning a firearm. Take great caution, it is a big responsibility.

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Firearm Basics: Final Thoughts

In summary, proper firearm basics including gun types, actions, caliber, and safety and knowledge is essential for any gun owner.

We have outlined the different types of common firearms, from handguns to rifles and shotguns, as well as different types of ammunition.

Understanding firearm basics safety protocols is an ongoing process; it is important to stay up to date on changing regulations and laws.

As a firearm owner or user, you are responsible for your own safety and the safety of those around you.

When used responsibly with the right knowledge, and learning firearms basics, guns can be enjoyed safely for sport, hunting or personal protection.

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