This is part three of my series for new shooters. Part one dealt with the parts of guns, part two dealt with ammo, and this post deals with types of guns.
This is a guide designed to educate new shooters, or those who wish to become shooters, with the terms, and the basics of guns. I will deal exclusively with modern, breech loading firearms.
Part I, Part II, Part III
There are many gun types for all sorts of different uses. Just as there are many different types of screwdrivers, there are many different types of guns, specifically created for their job.
We will start with the very basic of breakdowns. The bore. If you remember from Part I, the bore is the inside of the barrel. All projectile firing weapons, from a tank to a derringer, can be broken down in to two categories. The smooth bore and the rifle.
The smooth bore is just like it sounds. The bore is smooth all of the way down. The rifle, in direct contrast, has twisting groves that spin the projectile. Both types serve a purpose.
The smooth bore now a days is found in shotguns. What is a shotgun? A shotgun, or a scatter gun, is a type of firearm that instead of firing a single solid metal piece, fires several spheres called shot. This type of gun is used for close engagements. Why? As the shot leaves the barrel of the gun, the shot begins to expand. At about 50 feet, the shot is so spread out that it is effectively useless. This type of firearm is nearly impossible to put directly on target, so the idea is to get the shot in the general area of the target. This is why the sights of a shot gun are, typically, a little sphere on the end of the barrel.
Because of their limited range, and the spreading effect of their shot, shotguns are mainly used for foul hunting. They can knock a bird out of the air with relative ease, where the hunter can finish off the bird by breaking its neck.
Shotguns are also very very good urban warfare tools. They are absolutely lethal close in, but harmless as the shot expands, thus the danger of killing anything behind your target is significantly reduced. Good stuff if you are shooting at a bad guy and you don't want to kill your kids in the next room.
Shotguns can fire metal slugs, but, again, their range is very limited. It is difficult to determine where your slug will end up outside of about 50 yards. The smooth bore that makes the shotgun so versatile, also severely limits its range.
Shotguns are classified by action. A pump gun, or a pump action shotgun is one that has a tubular magazine under the barrel, and fresh rounds are cycled by moving a handle back (the "pump"), opening the bolt and ejecting the spent shell (if there is one), and then moving the handle forward, putting a fresh shell in the chamber and closing the bolt. The pump action shotgun can only fire once per pump.
Semi automatic shotguns are also very popular. They work by using the recoil of the shell to open the bolt, eject the shell, then feed a fresh shell, and finally closing the bolt. This automatic loading procedure enables the shotgun to fire multiple times, simply by pulling the trigger.
The final type of commonly seen shotgun is the double barrel shot gun. This gun has two barrels, either side-by-side, or one underneath the other (called an under over). These types of shotguns are typically break action, and use two triggers, one for each barrel. If you pull both triggers at the same time, both barrels go off, letting lose with twice the amount of shot. Thus the phrase I gave them "both barrels."
Shotguns, of course, come with many different types of action, but the above three kinds are the most common.
Rifled bores are by far the most commonly used bore. The rifling puts a spin on the bullet, and causes it to fly straighter, making the bullet fly straight to its target. I am going to break down the rifled bores down in to several different categories.
When the generic term "rifle" is used, it is generally referring to the long gun rather than the handgun. A rifle is a type of long gun that fires a bullet, and has a super sonic muzzle velocity (the speed of the projectile as it leaves the muzzle). Rifles are used to take down land animals at a range from very close up to excess of 1000 yards. Normal people will use a rifle between 10 and 200 yards. After about 200 yards, the wind and bullet drop (gravity still works, the bullet will fall at 9.2m/s^2) become significant factors.
Rifles are generally broken down by the action that they use. There are generally three types of action that you will see most commonly. Two are single shot, and one auto loading.
This was the first type of repeating rifle. The ammo is kept in a tubular magazine underneath the barrel of the rifle. A round put in to the chamber by a simple natural process. First the leaver is moved forward, opening the bolt, and ejecting a spent round (if there is one). Then a fresh round is put in to the chamber, and the bolt is locked, by moving the leaver back in to the starting position. Each time the rifle is fired, the leaver must be cycled for the rifle to be ready to shoot again.
Up until after WWII, the bolt action rifle was the choice of the world's militaries (except for the US, but we will get in to that later). The bolt action is the most accurate of all of the rifle action designs. It allows for the best lock behind the round, and the stablest platform to shoot from. The United States Marines still use essentially the same bolt action rifle for their sniping operations that the front line solder used in WWI. Goes to the accuracy and durability of this action design.
The bolt action rifle typically stores its rounds in either a detectable or internal magazine underneath the action. The bolt is unlocked, and drawn rearward. This ejects the spent casing (if there is one), and brings up the next round. The bolt is then moved forward feeding the new round in to the chamber, and the bolt is locked in to place.
The bolt must be cycled each time for the rifle to fire.
The auto loading rifle uses the recoil, or the spent gases of the ammo to work the action. The first round is loaded manually, by "charging" the rifle. The action is manually worked by pulling back and releasing the bolt, feeding the first round in to the chamber. After that all the shooter need do is pull the trigger. The action will work to eject the spent casing, and feed in a new round.
You many have heard the term "Assault Rifle" essentially, in a military setting, an assault rifle has multiple settings one for semi automatic fire and one for a burst or for fully automatic fire. The "assault rifle" is always an auto loading firearm.
In the civilian world, the clueless media will typically call any semi-automatic rifle an "Assault Rifle"... What am I saying?? The media will often call any gun an assault rifle.
The place where the most confusion occurs is in handguns, so I will go over the two most common forms of handgun actions.
First a handgun is a gun that fits in your hand. Easy right? They are used primarily for self defense. You can hunt with them, sure. I have carried handguns when hunting animals that can hunt me back just in case I needed to put some lead in the air fast.
The handgun's range is quite limited. It is difficult to accurately shoot anything with a handgun at greater than 50 yards, and 50 yards is pushing it. In my opinion if it is a man sized target at anything greater than 30 yards, you need a rifle.
A Revolver is a type of handgun that uses a revolving cylinder. This cylinder contains the cartridges, and also acts to contain the pressures of the explosion. Where the cartridge resides is also called the "chamber."
What is interesting about the revolver is that the the chamber and the barrel are two separate components. The cylinder revolves until it is aligned with the barrel, but leaving a small gap between chamber and barrel. When the trigger is pulled, the gun fires and the bullet travels from the chamber in to the barrel where it is spun by the rifling and on to the target. You have to be careful when shooting revolvers, because if your fingers are near that little gap, the escaping gases will burn your fingers!!
The automatic in automatic handgun means that the action is auto loading. What that means is that the slide is pulled back to feed a round in to the chamber. When the trigger is pulled the recoil of the shot will force the slide back, ejecting the spent casing, and then forward, feeding the fresh round in to the chamber. The gun loaded itself. Thus the automatically loading handgun. The automatic for short.
Now... Remember from my first post in this series about what the definition of single shot, semi-automatic, and fully automatic? Single shot means that the action has to be worked manually before another shot can be made. Semi-Automatic means that one shot is fired for each pull of the trigger. Fully automatic is where the gun continues to fire as long as the trigger remains depressed. Now some confusing stuff... all automatic handguns are semi-automatic. Some, but not all revolvers are semi-automatic. That is where a lot of confusion happens. It is incorrect to call automatic handguns, semi-automatics, because revolvers can be semi-automatic as well. The "automatic" refers to the action only. So there are two types of hand guns, automatics (auto loading handguns), and revolvers. Ok?
There are two types of automatic weapons, ones that fire a supersonic rifle round and those that fire a sub-sonic pistol round. The ones that fire the sub-sonic pistol round are called "sub machine guns." So guns like the Uzi, and the H&K MP5 are considered to be sub machine guns, because they fire the 9 mm Parabellum pistol round. These are for close combat, pistol range engagements.
Supersonic rifle round automatic weapons fall in to a number of categories. You have your standard infantry assault rifles, like the ones I described earlier, and then you have the machine guns. Machine guns only fire automatically, and typically take their ammunition in a long "belt" of strung together bullets. For that reason, they are often referred to as "belt fed" weapons.