Several guns in a gun case. Two rifles, a pistol, and a shotgun.

Types of Guns

All types of guns have their strengths and weaknesses in different shooting situations. This is a beginner’s guide to understanding firearms and choosing the right one for you. It’s important to understand the differences between each type of gun so you can decide which type of gun is best for you. But let’s start with understand more about guns in general.

All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.

– Daniel Boone

What is a gun?

A gun is a portable firearm that is designed to be fired by a single person. Guns use gunpowder to propel a projectile, such as a bullet, out of a barrel.

Guns are used for a variety of purposes, including hunting, self-defense, target shooting, military, and law enforcement.

Learn more in our article about the history of guns.

What are the different categories of firearms?

The most common gun types are:

The the most popular use cases for guns are:

Let’s take a deeper look at each type of gun (or go straight to the types of guns infographic here).


Rifles on display at a shooting range
Rifles on display at a shooting range (The Range in Austin, TX)

Rifles are long guns that are widely used for hunting, military, and law enforcement.

The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.
― Jeff Cooper, Art of the Rifle

The caliber and size vary from rifle to rifle to fit different purposes.

A rifle’s basic features include:

  • a stock for shoulder support
  • a longer barrel than other gun types, usually longer than 16 inces
  • optics to improve accuracy and range
  • requires firing with both hands

The interior of a rifle barrel has rifling.

Rifling is a series of grooves that cause the bullet to spin as it’s fired from the barrel.

This stabilizes the trajectory of the bullet.

Hunters prefer rifles for hunting animals that require accuracy at a distance.

Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen.

– Jeff Cooper


Types Of Rifles

There are four main types of modern rifles:

  1. Bolt-action rifles
  2. Lever-action rifles
  3. Semi-automatic rifles
  4. Fully automatic rifles.


1) Bolt-action Rifle

A bolt-action rifle is a rifle that does not require an external power source to function.

This means it can be operated manually by pushing the bolt back, cocking it, and then releasing it.

The bolt secures a cartridge in place as the action chambers the next round.

This type of gun is also simple to maintain because it only requires minimal cleaning, making it excellent for hunters who frequently travel or reside in rural locations with limited access to gunsmiths who specialize in firearm maintenance.

Examples of bolt-action rifles:


2) Lever-action Rifle

A Lever Action rifle is a repeating rifle that cycles the action with a lever. In the same way that pump-action shotguns are named after the mechanism by which they function, lever-action rifles are named after the mechanism by which they operate.

Examples of some of the lever-action rifles:
  • Henry Repeating Rifle
  • Winchester Model 1873
  • Winchester Model 1886
  • Savage Model 99
  • Marlin Model 1895


3) Semi-Automatic Rifle

Semi-automatic rifles have only one moving part, as opposed to fully automatic rifles, which have many moving parts.

As shots are fired from the muzzle of a semi-automatic rifle, the bolt rotates back and forth within an internally rotating chamber.

Examples of semi-automatic rifles:
  • Ruger Mini-30
  • Remington Model Four
  • Armalite AR-7
  • AR-57
  • Winchester model 30


4) Fully Automatic Rifles

The most significant difference between a semi-automatic and a fully automatic rifle is what happens once the trigger is pulled.

A fully automatic rifle does not need a trigger squeeze for each round fired.

With a fully automatic, you pull the trigger and hold it down to continuously fire rounds.

Examples of fully automatic rifles:
  • Lewis gun
  • Bren light machine gun
  • The PKM (Pulemot Kalashnikova Modernizirovannyi, or Kalashnikov’s Machine Gun)



A shotgun, like a rifle, has a long barrel and is designed to be fired from the shoulder.

A shotgun, on the other hand, often has a smooth bore to avoid friction, and the barrel walls are thinner because pressures are not as high.

Shotgun shooting is typically done at a shorter range with moving targets in the air, whereas rifles are more commonly employed for fixed targets.

In today’s world, shotguns are used for everything from hunting to home defense and law enforcement.

People are starting to use shotguns differently than they were intended, similar to how their primary use has developed.


Types Of Shotguns

There are two main types of shotguns: break-action shotguns and pump-action shotguns.


1) Break-action Shotgun

This shotgun has the capability of “breaking” the barrel and loading/unloading additional rounds into the chamber for shooting.

This is the most basic type of shotgun and can only accept one shell at a time (per barrel of course).


2) Pump-action Shotguns

Today, this is the most common (modern) type of shotgun.

These shotguns allow you to carry numerous preloaded shells, and when you need a new round, you simply press the trigger, and BAM, you have a new shotshell in the chamber.

Examples of pump-action Shotguns:
  • Smith & Wesson Model 3000
  • Stevens Model 520/620
  • Weatherby PA-08
  • Winchester Model 1200



Handguns, as the name implies, are intended to be fired with a single hand, while modern handgun technique generally advocates two-handed operation for stability unless there are specific reasons to utilize a single hand.


Types Of Handguns

Handguns are divided into two types: revolvers and pistols.


1) Revolvers

Unlike other handguns, a revolver does not use a magazine to feed rounds into the barrel.

Instead, before shooting, a cylinder feeds ammunition into the barrel.

The revolver differs from other weapons in that the cartridges are put in chambers that rotate around in a cylinder to line with the barrel of the gun, rather than aligning on their own.

Because they are easy to operate, revolvers are ideal for use on the range, especially for rookie gun owners.

They can’t contain as many rounds as other handguns like pistols, and reloading can take longer than usual, but they’re still wonderful firearms to have.


2) Pistol

There are many various types of firearms available, but the pistol is the most prevalent.

A pistol is a type of gun in which a magazine automatically feeds ammo into the chamber after firing a round.

Pistols exist in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all have short barrels, no stock, and only one grip (like a handgun).

They are now often used as home defense weapons since they are simple to operate and produce less collateral damage than a larger caliber rifle.

Any option you choose will be heavily influenced by how you intend to use your weapon.

For example, if you’re just interested in something to keep your family safe from house invasions, a pistol is definitely your best bet.

However, if you intend to go hunting, you will most likely need a rifle (depending on the type of hunting).


Best Guns For Self-defense And Home Defense

So, if you’re looking for the greatest home defense gun to protect you and your family, this is the guide for you.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to home defense.

It all relies on you and your needs.

More particular, it comes down to your shooting ability.

For example, if all you do is drill with pistols, that’s the gun for you.

Similarly, if you solely practice with a rifle, it will be your best home defense weapon.

Why is this the case?


You won’t have time to contemplate when the frantic home invasion comes.

You’ll only have a limited amount of time to act.

Choosing a gun with which you are familiar with will allow you to respond faster, potentially saving your and your family’s lives.

If I were to propose the best self-defense and home defense guns for you, I would go with the ones listed below.

  • Glock 19, Gen 5
  • Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0
  • Sig Sauer P320
  • Walther PDP
  • Smith & Wesson Model 686+


Best Guns For Hunting

Nothing is more crucial than selecting the best hunting gun for a successful hunting trip.

Whether you’re going out for the first time or the fiftieth, it all comes down to selecting a rifle that fits your hunting style and the game you’re after.

Guns, in their most fundamental, are hunting tools.

Some weapons, like tools in a toolbox, are better at some hunting jobs than others.

Depending on the animals you intend to hunt and where you want to hunt them, it’s important to choose a gun that will help you hunt ethically and legally.

With the guns on this list, you can hunt almost any animal anywhere in the world:

  • Nosler M21
  • CZ-USA 600 Alpha
  • Christensen Arms Ridgeline Scout
  • Seekins Havak HIT
  • 12 Gauge Shotgun


Best Guns For Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers understand they are signing up for a risky job.

Their weapon is a critical tool when they hit the streets.

Here is a list of the best guns for law enforcement officers:

  • Glock 19
  • Glock 22
  • Sig Sauer P226
  • Heckler and Koch HK45
  • Remington 870 Shotgun


Best Guns For Military

While tanks, planes, and artillery have a greater impact on the battlefield, the military gun remains an important aspect of any military.

The best military guns are listed below:

  • M16/M4/AR-10 family
  • AK-104
  • AK-105
  • SG 550 series (mostly used in Switzerland)
  • G3 family (mostly used in NATO nations and Germany)


Gun Ownership Statistics

According to a survey by Pew Research Center, 30% of adults in the United States own a gun, and 42% live in a home with someone who owns a gun.

Guns are deep-rooted in American society, with around 48% of adults in the United States growing up in families with firearms.

59% of U.S. people have gun-owning acquaintances, and 72% have fired a pistol before.

Gun owners typically have many guns in their houses, with 66% owning more than one and 29% owning more than five.

The most prevalent type of gun in American homes is the handgun or pistol, which is owned by 72% of gun owners.

62% of gun-owning American adults own a rifle, while 54% own a shotgun.

The motives for gun ownership vary, but the vast majority, almost two-thirds, own a gun for defense.

38% of gun owners buy guns for hunting, while 30% buy them for sport shooting.




Types of Guns Infographic

Types of Guns Infographic
Types of Guns Infographic


References / Sources