All Types of Guns With Pictures and Names – Updated

Going to a shooting range and firing off a couple of rounds is a fun activity that many people enjoy. Learning the various styles of guns can be challenging since there are so many variations. In reality, there are three core styles of guns, and these three styles can be further be broken down into many different categories.

The 3 main types of guns are:

  • Handguns
  • Shotguns
  • Rifles

All three styles of guns have several sub-categories they can be broken into. Let’s take a closer look at the main sub-categories and show you the names and pictures of each to help you identify the various styles of guns.

Gun Types and Descriptions

A lot of people get confused about the specific type of gun they are holding and how they work. With so many different moving parts that make up the firearm as well as the different ammunition designs and purposes, it can be overwhelming.

What can help is knowing what the basic parts are of any firearm and understanding their function. All firearms have three basic parts that are called the action, the barrel, and the stock. Think of the action as the heart of the firearm. This is where everything really important and complex is happening. The action is where your cartridge (bullet) is being loaded, fired, and ejected.

As for your barrel, this is the metal tube that your bullet will be traveling down and projecting from. The bullet will be pushed forward by any means such as gunpowder or compressed air. The barrel will also act as a way to point, aim, and indicates where the bullet will go.

The stock is the support to your barrel and action. It’s where you will actually hold the firearm, thereby allowing you to pull the trigger. With rifles, shotguns, and machine guns, the stock will be pressed against your shoulder, with one hand going on the trigger and the other holding the forestock (the area directly before the barrel). With handguns and revolvers, you will put one or both hands on the stock to use the weapon.

These are the basic parts that will be mentioned throughout this article. The different types though are built differently so, therefore, each will have different features. As I explain each gun type, I will also mention more parts specific to that gun, but I will make sure to explain the part in better detail.


Revolvers are different from handguns because of one specific feature. They contain a cylinder wherein multiple chambers hold cartridges separately and rotate with each rack of the gun. This will then align the bullet with the barrel of the gun. This gun can shoot different calibers (usually means the size of the bullet’s diameter), thereby creating variety. They can also be used with one hand.

There are different types of revolvers:

  • Single-action means that the trigger does one thing and that thing is firing the gun. With single-action revolvers, the hammers must be pulled back every time manually before pulling the trigger. Otherwise, it will not work.
  • Double-action means that the trigger has ‘double’ the actions that it performs. It racks the hammer and fires the firearm all in one motion. With the first click of pulling the trigger back, it racks the hammer and with the second click of releasing the trigger, it fires the gun.
  • Double-action only (DAO) means that the revolver does not have a hammer. Instead, it racks and fires the weapon without there being a visible hammer.

You might prefer the single action simply for the fact that it does not require a lot of effort to pull the trigger, whereas with the double-action revolver more pressure will be needed for the trigger. Note that you can get a revolver that has both single-action and double-action features. People who have a concealed-to-carry permit prefer the DAO revolver because of the no-hammer feature, thereby making it easier to pull out of a purse or clothing in self-defense. Source

One of the most popular entry-level choices for a revolver today is the Taurus 905 chambered in 9mm. This gun starts new at around $300 making it a great first buy. The best price we’ve found on this gun specifically can be found here.


This weapon is perfect for concealed carry users because it is light, carries a strong punch, and is very accurate. As probably obvious by the name, it is different from shotguns, rifles, and machine guns because you can fire it with one hand.

The barrel is short with thick walls that enable the weapon to survive high pressures and the bore has rifling. The bore for any firearm is the inside of the barrel, and rifling indicates that the bore is filed in a way that there are spiral groves. This then gives the projectile a spin as it shoots out of the barrel. Rifling increases the accuracy of your shot. Source

Handguns come in a variety of sizes. These are generally full-sized, compact, sub-compact, and micro-compact/pocket pistols.

They all share some common features. All modern semi-automatic handguns are fed by a detachable magazine. They are also designed to handle one caliber but multiple styles of that caliber.

Let’s look at the different sizes of handgun of handgun.

  • Full-sized full-sized handguns are the largest standard handgun size available. They feature barrels that are 4.5 inches long to 5 inches long. They are also large enough to comfortably fit your whole hand on their grip. The Glock 17 and most standard 1911s are full-sized handguns
  • Compact handguns are smaller than full-sized ones. They have shorter barrels ranging from 3.5 inches to 4.5 inches. Their grip can be as large as a full-sized pistol or slightly shorter. These include pistols like the Glock 19 and the P320 compact.
  • Sub-compact pistols are even smaller than compact pistols. They have barrels that are 3.5 inches or less. Its grip is much shorter and can generally only fit about two fingers on it comfortably. The Taurus G3C 9mm is an example for a sub-compact pistol.
  • Micro-compact/pocket pistol have been around for a very long time and their latest version is the micro-compact. These guns have less than a 3 inch barrel or less and can easily fit in pockets. A modern example of these types of gun are the new Springfield Hellcat.

Nearly all magazine-fed handguns made today are double-action. If you are wanting a cheaper, but quality handgun, I recommend the Taurus PT111 G2. I purchased this handgun 5+ years ago, concealed carried it for many of those years, and put roughly 3,500 rounds through the gun. I never had any issues in that time with the gun itself.

Given that it is just barely over $200 brand new when purchased here, it makes it an excellent choice for a low budget.

If you are looking for a higher-end handgun with all the bells and whistles, I recommend the War Poet Pistol. This has been my daily carry for a while now and I’ve never owned a better handgun.


Rifles are going to require both hands, with the stock being positioned against the shoulder. The barrel will be long and the bore will have rifling as well.

The ATF (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) defines your everyday rifle as “…a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.” (Source)

There are varying types of rifles, and these are:

  • Lever-Action Rifles are the first design of rifles. When you think of a cowboy out in the wild west, this would be the type of gun he’d carry. With this rifle, there is a tube that runs alongside the barrel called the tubular magazine. There is a handle behind the trigger that you will pull back to pull a cartridge from the tubular magazine and into the chamber where it will be fired. Known for being less accurate, they are also a lot heavier.
  • Bolt-Action Rifles are very popular rifles and the most produced in the world for being easy to use and accurate. A small metal bar will stick out of the gun above your trigger and behind the chamber. This is called your bolt handle. With four motions of upward, backward, forward, and down the firearm will then do three things. It will eject the last cartridge, load the next road, and then close the chamber, readying it for fire. From there you just pull the trigger.
  • Semi-Automatic Rifles are very simple in the fact that they eliminate the need for manually loading a cartridge into the chamber, and instead can fire one round with one pull of the trigger. These rifles commonly use a magazine or clip.
  • Break-Action Rifles are unique in that they seem to partially break in half at the chamber. By pulling on the action release, the gun hinges open like a door, and from there you can load and unload your cartridges.
  • Air Rifles do not require any chemical reactions, instead of firing off their projectiles by pneumatical means. This can be through air pressure or gas. The different types of air rifles include spring-powered, gas piston, precharged pneumatic (PCP), variable pump, and CO2-powered.

The AR-15

The AR in AR-15 does not, contrary to common belief, stand for ‘assault rifle’, but instead is named after its original manufacturer, Armalite. The civilian AR-15 is exclusively a semi-automatic rifle, immediately disqualifying it from being an assault rifle, and if you try to convert this weapon to an automatic weapon you will land yourself in prison.

There are three primary parts to the AR-15. There is the upper receiver, then the bolt and bolt carrier, and then the lower receiver. The upper receiver includes the barrel and can be separated from the lower receiver, both being held together by two pins. Pushing one pin out will angle the upper receiver forward so you can clean it, and pushing both out separates the two. The lower receiver contains the stock and trigger.

To fire your AR-15, there are two systems you can choose from: direct impingement and gas piston.

Direct Impingement: When you pull the trigger, you will be releasing a propellant gas that will feed through a small hole in the barrel. From there it will go into a small tube and travel until it comes impinges the bolt carrier. The gas and energy will all then be in the rear part of the rifle and will push the bolt back into the spot where your spent cartridges will come out.

This will push the bolt carrier back and hit the buffer (the part between the stock and trigger) back where a spring will squeeze. From there, a spring-loaded action will propel it forward and discard a spent round from the magazine

Gas Piston: This has a similar start of the propellant gas feeding through a small hole in the barrel, but instead here it will stay in a cylinder that is separate and holds a piston. As the piston is moved, the bolt carrier will be pushed back, extracting the spent round and reloading the next one.

If you are looking for an entry-level AR15 that is well built, I recommend the Ruger AR-556 chambered in either 5.56 or 300blk. I personally chose to go with one chambered in 300blk, but 300blk ammunition is harder to come by and nearly twice the price. You can pick up this gun for under $800 here.


Similar to the rifle, this weapon is meant to be shot from the shoulder and includes a long barrel. But where the rifle has a rifled bore, the shotgun has a smooth bore with thinner walls or its own rifled bore. The smooth bore reduces the friction and thicker walls are not as necessary because less pressure is seen here.

The uniqueness found with shotguns is that, unlike the rifle or handgun where only one projectile is shot, the shotgun can fire off multiple projectiles called ‘shot’. The shot explodes from the gun and spreads out as it leaves. These guns are short-range because the power of a single discharge is split between multiple pieces and therefore the shot loses its energy as it travels away.

Like rifles there are multiple types of shotguns. The types are break action, lever action, pump action, and semi-automatic.

  • Break action shotguns are the simplest type of shotgun. They have one, two, or even three barrels side next to each other and have their shells loaded in by hand when the gun is broken open. Single barrel break action shotguns are good beginner guns since they can only accept one shell at a time and are inexpensive. Anexample of a single barrel shotgun is the Henry Single Shot Youth Shotgun.
  • Lever-action shotguns are similar to lever-action rifles. A lever on the bottom of the gun is used to put the next shell in the action but instead of a rifle round it is a shotgun shell. These types of shotguns have fallen out of popularity except in areas where they are the only legal option. The Henry Lever-Action .410 Shotgun is an example of a modern lever-action shotgun
  • Pump-action shotguns are the most common shotgun type today. They carry multiple shells in a tube magazine under the barrel. The shells are put into the action by pulling back on the forestock and then pushing the forestock forward. This motion will eject spent shells and chamber new ones as long as there is ammunition in the magazine. The Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 are good examples of pump-action shotguns.
  • Semi-automatic shotguns work in the same way as semi-automatic rifles do. They take some of the gas from the propellant to chamber the next shell. These types of shotguns are becoming more popular but have slightly different controls than those found on a pump-action shotgun. These shotguns have buttons to release the bolt of the shotgun. This makes the gun ready to fire with a shell in the chamber. The Beretta 1301 is an example of a semi-automatic shotgun.

For home defense, a simple 12-gauge security shotgun is tough to beat. I believe a good 12-gauge should be in every home. I personally recommend the Mossberg 930 Security shotgun with an 8 round capacity. It’s slightly higher priced than their lower-end Mavrik line, but the quality difference is noticeable. You can pick one up here for just over $700.

Machine Guns

Something important to understand before engaging in what makes a machine gun a machine gun is knowing the difference between semi-automatic and automatic. Semi-automatic means that the firearm automatically reloads without any manual loading and can repeatedly fire one bullet per one pull of the trigger. Automatic means that when the trigger mechanism is being utilized, the firearm will repeatedly fire until you release the trigger.

To be able to legally own any fully automatic weapon in the US, the weapon must be made before 1986However newly manufactured firearms can be legally converted to a legal machined gun with the appropriate paperwork and approval of the ATF and the receiving of a tax stamp. The pre-1986 requirement only applies to transferable or sell-able machine guns in the US.

Legally a machine gun is any fully automatic weapon. However there are several types that meet the legal definition but are categorized differently in design and practice. These types are submachine guns, heavy machine guns, light machine guns, and assault rifles/select-fire rifles.

I will cover assault rifles by themselves so let’s look at the two other types.

  • Submachine guns are automatic weapons chambered in a pistol or handgun caliber. Early versions of these types of guns are sometimes called machine pistols but later the term machine pistol would only apply to handgun sized automatic weapons. Many submachine guns were designed and manufactured before 1986 making them highly sought after by collectors. Examples of early submachine guns are the American Thompson submachine gun and the British Sten series of submachine guns.
  • Heavy machine guns are some of the earliest types of machine guns for military use. They harder to move and are generally mounted to some sort of carrier or similar device. When fired continuously they produce a lot of heat which requires them to be cooled in order to prevent damage to the gun. This is done by use of a water jacket or by air cooling. Both methods try to dissipate heat quickly to prevent the barrel from melting. Most heavy machine guns have a belt of bullets feed into them. This is because their fire rate is much hire than a normal rifle and a typical magazine won’t last long. Other times the machine gun’s bullets are bigger than a normal rifle and a magazine for bullets of that size is not practical. Examples of heaving machine guns are the Browning M2 heavy machine gun and the Maxim gun.
  • Light machine guns are meant to be carried by a single person or with a team. They use rifle bullets in a belt or sometimes in a magazine. Older types of light machine guns became popular during the World Wars and are highly collectible. More modern made light machine guns are belt-fed only and harder to collect. Examples of light machine guns are the Lewis gun and the American M60.

Machine guns work by allowing the gun to fire each time it is ready to. This means that the trigger that usually stops the gun from firing round after round is designed to let the bolt or bolt carrier continue working after each shot. This is done by the trigger not engaging something called a sear. The sear is essentially a small catch that the trigger hooks onto. A properly working sear in a semi-automatic gun will stop the gun from firing again.

If it does not this means the parts are damaged and the gun needs to be repaired. However a gun designed for fully automatic fire and be set to do this on purpose and does not indicate parts damage.

At the end of the barrel closest to the trigger, there is a thing called the firing pin. The firing pin is what, when the trigger is pulled, strikes the primer of your cartridge and makes the bullet shoot down the barrel. That is the first part of how the machine gun works.

The second part carries on to produce an action in the spring bolt, which pushes back the bolt to eject the casing of your bullet. Then the bolt will hit the spring and push it forward again to load another bullet into the chamber and then cause it to hit the firing pin once more, thereby repeating the process so long as the trigger is pulled. Source

Assault Rifles

Assault rifles differ from machine guns in that they have the option of a semi-automatic mode, a three-shot burst mode, and an automatic mode. However, assault rifles are also classified as machine guns because of their automatic firing capacity.

The AK-47 is a good example of an assault rifle, as military versions can have an automatic setting as well as a semi-automatic setting. To fire this gun, all you need to do is pull the trigger, which releases the hammer that strikes the firing pin. The firing pin will then strike the primer of your cartridge and ignite the propellants within.

The gases that are released as the bullet races down the barrel expand and force the gas piston backward. This pushes the bolt carrier back and ejects the casing while at the same time resetting the hammer. The bolt will then push forward, scooping up a bullet from the magazine and place it into the chamber, ready to restart the process.

The video below does an amazing job at showing how AK-47’s and other assault rifles work:

So there you have it, a crash course on the six main gun types and how they work!


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Trent Gander

Trent Gander has been in the firearms sphere for almost a decade, learning and growing with the changing times. He has been writing professionally on the subject for almost six years.

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