Category Archives: Guns and Shooting Primer

Guns and Shooting – A Primer (part 2) Different Types of Guns – Pistols

The last article probably left you with lots of questions like “Are handguns the same as pistols?” and “What are shotguns and why does Joe Biden keep talking about them?” Now that we know what a firearm is and the basics of how it works, let’s look at the different types of guns and answer those questions!

Before we get into that let’s get some terms figured out.

There are many different types of firearms and they generally fall into three classes.

  • Pistols
  • Rifles
  • Shotguns



A revolver is the oldest style of the modern hand-held, hand-fired guns. Here is a quick video to give you an idea of how it functions and what it looks like.

As you can see, the piece that holds the rounds (the cylinder) revolves to bring an unfired round in line to be fired. Revolvers are too often discounted as low capacity, slow shooters. As you will see, it’s really just a matter of training.


“??? But isn’t a revolver a handgun? I mean it is a gun and it’s held in your hand. . .right?” Wrong. It is not logical. It seems like “handgun” would be the term to cover all hand-held, hand-fired guns but for some reason it is not. When knowledgeable people are talking about guns and they refer to a handgun they are NOT referring to a revolver. The video below gives you a good idea of what they are talking about.

Some folks maintain that revolvers are better saying that they are simpler and don’t jam. Others say that handguns are better because they often can hold more ammo and can be easier to shoot fast and accurately. The truth is that modern handguns do not typically malfunction and revolvers can jam. And while revolvers do often have a heavy double action trigger so too do many handguns and it is simply a matter of training and practice to become proficient. The argument that revolvers are simpler (often directed at women) is false and insulting. Leaving aside the silly “which is better” argument, each one has applications for which they are better suited. The greater capacity of a double stack handgun is well suited to home defense, while revolvers can be made much stronger than a handgun and can shoot much more powerful ammunition which is good for self protection in bear country.

I was going to cover rifles and shotguns as well but I want to keep these articles short and light. The next article will be on rifles.

Guns and Shooting – A Primer (part 1)

Guns and Shooting – A Primer (part 1)

The topic of the different firearms and the various ways to properly shoot them is so broad that it’s hard to know where to start. I think the best starting point is firearms. What is a firearm? Is a BB gun or a pellet gun a firearm? Here is a definition used by the federal government:

The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include (A) any weapon (including a starter gun), which will, or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon….

So, a BB gun is not a firearm because it uses compressed air or a spring to shoot the BB. Interestingly the law’s definition is not actually correct. No modern firearms use an explosive to propel the projectile. Did you know that? While black powder is an explosive, the modern smokeless powders used for the last hundred years are actually classified and regulated as propellants. This brings up another important point. When a round is fired the gunpowder does not detonate, it burns. It burns so quickly that it has a special name called “deflagration” to describe it. When it burns it release huge volumes of gas that push the bullet out of the barrel. I don’t figure you are reading this to get a dissertation on internal ballistics so I found this short 3 minute video that gives a nice overview:

It is a device that propels a device by that action of powder that constitutes a firearm.