Firearm
Overview
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile
Projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

(s) at high velocity through confined burning
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

 of a propellant
Propellant
A propellant is a material that produces pressurized gas that:* can be directed through a nozzle, thereby producing thrust ;...

. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration
Deflagration
Deflagration is a term describing subsonic combustion that usually propagates through thermal conductivity; hot burning material heats the next layer of cold material and ignites it. Most "fire" found in daily life, from flames to explosions, is deflagration...

, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation
Detonation
Detonation involves a supersonic exothermic front accelerating through a medium that eventually drives a shock front propagating directly in front of it. Detonations are observed in both conventional solid and liquid explosives, as well as in reactive gases...

. In older firearms, the propellant was typically black powder or cordite
Cordite
Cordite is a family of smokeless propellants developed and produced in the United Kingdom from 1889 to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. Like gunpowder, cordite is classified as a low explosive because of its slow burning rates and consequently low brisance...

, but modern firearms use smokeless powder
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

 or other propellants. Most modern firearms (with the notable exception of smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 firearms) have rifled
Rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

 barrels to impart spin to the projectile for improved flight stability.
Beginning around 700 AD, scientists and inventors in ancient China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 developed different grades of gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 and innovated different types of firearms, including single-shot smooth-bore fire lances, multi-barreled guns
Güns
Güns or Guens may refer to:* Kőszeg, Hungary * Kőszeg Mountains, Hungary * Akiva Güns , birth name of Akiva Eger, a Hungarian-Polish rabbi- See also :* Guns * Gün, a surname...

, multiple-launch artillery rockets and the first cannon
Cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

 in the world made from cast bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

.
Several centuries later, in late Dark Age Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the term "firearm" was used in Old English to denote the arm in which the match was held that was used to light the touch hole
Touch hole
A touch hole is a small hole, through which the propellant charge of a cannon or muzzleloading gun is ignited. In small arms, the flash from a charge of priming held in the flash pan is enough to ignite the charge within...

 on the hand cannon.
Encyclopedia
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile
Projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

(s) at high velocity through confined burning
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

 of a propellant
Propellant
A propellant is a material that produces pressurized gas that:* can be directed through a nozzle, thereby producing thrust ;...

. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration
Deflagration
Deflagration is a term describing subsonic combustion that usually propagates through thermal conductivity; hot burning material heats the next layer of cold material and ignites it. Most "fire" found in daily life, from flames to explosions, is deflagration...

, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation
Detonation
Detonation involves a supersonic exothermic front accelerating through a medium that eventually drives a shock front propagating directly in front of it. Detonations are observed in both conventional solid and liquid explosives, as well as in reactive gases...

. In older firearms, the propellant was typically black powder or cordite
Cordite
Cordite is a family of smokeless propellants developed and produced in the United Kingdom from 1889 to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. Like gunpowder, cordite is classified as a low explosive because of its slow burning rates and consequently low brisance...

, but modern firearms use smokeless powder
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

 or other propellants. Most modern firearms (with the notable exception of smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 firearms) have rifled
Rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

 barrels to impart spin to the projectile for improved flight stability.

Background

Beginning around 700 AD, scientists and inventors in ancient China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 developed different grades of gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 and innovated different types of firearms, including single-shot smooth-bore fire lances, multi-barreled guns
Güns
Güns or Guens may refer to:* Kőszeg, Hungary * Kőszeg Mountains, Hungary * Akiva Güns , birth name of Akiva Eger, a Hungarian-Polish rabbi- See also :* Guns * Gün, a surname...

, multiple-launch artillery rockets and the first cannon
Cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

 in the world made from cast bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

.
Several centuries later, in late Dark Age Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the term "firearm" was used in Old English to denote the arm in which the match was held that was used to light the touch hole
Touch hole
A touch hole is a small hole, through which the propellant charge of a cannon or muzzleloading gun is ignited. In small arms, the flash from a charge of priming held in the flash pan is enough to ignite the charge within...

 on the hand cannon. The term was a variation on the contemporary terms of bow arm
Bow (weapon)
The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.-Description:A bow is a flexible arc that shoots aerodynamic projectiles by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord...

 and drawing arm still used in archery
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

. Due to the effects of firing the ordnance (barrel) at the time, the gunner had to be located somewhat behind the weapon, steadying brace with the other hand, hence the name "hand gun" became synonymous with the "fire arm". Although the modern term 'gun
Gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

' is often used as a synonym for firearm, in specialist or military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 use it has a restricted sense referring only to an artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 piece with a relatively high muzzle velocity, such as a field gun
Field gun
A field gun is an artillery piece. Originally the term referred to smaller guns that could accompany a field army on the march and when in combat could be moved about the battlefield in response to changing circumstances, as to opposed guns installed in a fort, or to siege cannon or mortars which...

, a tank gun
Tank gun
A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

, or a gun used in the delivery of naval gunfire. Artillery guns are much larger than these firearms, mounted on movable carriages, having bores of up to 18 inches (45.7 cm) and possibly weighing many tons. Strictly speaking, such weapons are not firearms.

Hand-held firearms, like rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

s, carbine
Carbine
A carbine , from French carabine, is a longarm similar to but shorter than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full rifles, firing the same ammunition at a lower velocity due to a shorter barrel length....

s, pistols
Handgun
A handgun is a firearm designed to be held and operated by one hand. This characteristic differentiates handguns as a general class of firearms from long guns such as rifles and shotguns ....

 and other small firearms, are rarely called "guns" in the restricted sense among specialists. Machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s fire small-caliber ammunition (generally 12.7 mm (.50cal) or smaller), and many machine guns are crew-served infantry support weapons, requiring the services of more than one crewman, just like artillery guns. Generally, an automatic firearm designed for a single user is referred to as an automatic rifle
Automatic rifle
Automatic rifle is a term generally used to describe a semi-automatic rifle chambered for a rifle cartridge, capable of delivering both semi- and full automatic fire...

. Other terms, including "firearm" itself, have been defined in specialized ad hoc ways by various legislation
Legislation
Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body, or the process of making it...

.

In recent centuries, firearms have become the predominant weapons used by mankind. Modern warfare
Modern warfare
Modern warfare, although present in every historical period of military history, is generally used to refer to the concepts, methods and technologies that have come into use during and after the Second World War and the Korean War...

 since the late Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 has relied upon firearms, with wide-ranging effects on military history
Military history
Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, their cultures, economies and changing intra and international relationships....

 and history in general. This created a whole new kind of battle, which molded modern-era armies.

For handguns and long guns, the projectile is a bullet
Bullet
A bullet is a projectile propelled by a firearm, sling, or air gun. Bullets do not normally contain explosives, but damage the intended target by impact and penetration...

, or in historical hand cannons, a shot
Lead shot
Lead shot is a collective term for small balls of lead. These were the original projectiles for muskets and early rifles, but today lead shot is fired primarily from shotguns. It is also used for a variety of other purposes...

. The shot was initially made from lead already used as ammunition
Ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

 for the slings, and ironically begun with ballistic shape of a modern bullet, but was rapidly replaced by the cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

 ball. The projectile is fired by the burning of the propellant, but in small arms rarely contains explosives itself as such ammunition is banned by the Hague Convention
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

. The use of expanding (e.g. hollow-point) small-arms ammunition in warfare is also banned by the Convention for similar reason (it aggravates the severity of wounds from small-arms fire). For modern artillery the projectile is a shell
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

, which almost always contains explosives, and explosives were also common in older artillery pieces.

Until the mid-19th century, projectiles and propellant (black powder) were generally separate components used in a muzzle-loading firearm such as a rifle, pistol, or cannon. Sometimes for convenience a suitable amount of powder and a bullet were wrapped in a paper package, known as a cartridge. This evolved into the form of a tubular metal casing enclosing a primary igniter (primer) and the powder charge, with the projectile press-fit into the end of the casing opposite the primer. Cartridge ammunition was widely adopted, and as of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 it had become the primary form of ammunition for small arms, tanks, and artillery. Mortars use a similar concept of encapsulation; however the projectile and casing are generally a single piece that is launched from the firearm. Some short-range naval guns use cased ammunition, but many battleship and cruiser main guns use a shell and separate bagged powder measures, which are selected according to the desired ballistic path.

A distinction is sometimes made between the projectile itself as the weapon and the firearm as a weapons platform
Weapons platform
A weapons platform is generally any structure or system on which a weapon can be mounted. For example, a fighter jet is a weapons platform for missiles, bombs or autocannons. Other vehicles such as the Humvee are considered weapons platforms as well, such as for grenade launchers, machine guns and...

. In some cases, the firearm can be used directly as a weapon without firing a projectile, although this is virtually always a secondary method of attack used in close combat. For example, arms such as rifles, muskets, and occasionally submachine gun
Submachine gun
A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

s can have bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

s affixed to them, becoming in effect spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

s or pikes
Pike (weapon)
A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear used extensively by infantry both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a counter-measure against cavalry assaults. Unlike many similar weapons, the pike is not intended to be thrown. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the...

. With some notable exceptions, the stock of a long gun can be used as a club
Club (weapon)
A club is among the simplest of all weapons. A club is essentially a short staff, or stick, usually made of wood, and wielded as a weapon since prehistoric times....

. It is also possible to strike someone with the barrel of a firearm or grasp it by the barrel or grip and strike someone with the butt, which is informally called "pistol-whipping".

A problem for firearms is the accumulation of waste products from the partial combustion of propellants, metallic residue from the bullet itself, and small flecks of the cartridge case, known as fouling or gunshot residue. These waste products can interfere with the internal functions of the firearm. As a result, regularly used firearms must periodically be partially disassembled, cleaned and lubricated to ensure the firearm's reliability.

Firearms may sometimes be referred to as small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

. Small arms are firearms which can be carried by a single individual. According to international conventions governing the Laws of War
Laws of war
The law of war is a body of law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct...

, small arms are defined (with some exceptions) as firearms which fire a projectile not in excess of 15 mm (0.60 inches) in diameter. Small arms are aimed visually at their targets by hand using either iron sight
Iron sight
Iron sights are a system of shaped alignment markers used as a sighting device to assist in the aiming of a device such as a firearm, crossbow, or telescope, and exclude the use of optics as in telescopic sights or reflector sights...

s or optical sights. The range of pistols is generally limited to 50 metres (54.7 yd), while most rifles are accurate to 500 metres (546.8 yd) using iron sights, or longer ranges using optical sights. Some purpose-built sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

 rifles are accurate to ranges of 2000 metres (2,187.2 yd) and over. The current record for a successful sniper attack is slightly more than 1.5 mi (2.4 km). ..

The manufacture of firearms, is also a large industry. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade association for the firearms industry, all economic activity from firearm manufacturing, distribution, and other ancillary activities totaled $27.8 billion in 2010 in the United States..

History

The earliest depiction of a firearm is a sculpture from a cave in Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

, China. The sculpture dates to the 12th century and is of a figure carrying a vase-shaped bombard
Bombard (weapon)
A bombard is a large-caliber, muzzle-loading medieval cannon or mortar, used chiefly in sieges for throwing heavy stone balls. The name bombarde was first noted and sketched in a French historical text around 1380. The modern term bombardment derives from this.Bombards were usually used during...

 with flames and a cannonball
Round shot
Round shot is a solid projectile without explosive charge, fired from a cannon. As the name implies, round shot is spherical; its diameter is slightly less than the bore of the gun it is fired from.Round shot was made in early times from dressed stone, but by the 17th century, from iron...

 coming out of it. The oldest surviving gun, made of bronze, has been dated to 1288 because it was discovered at a site in modern-day Acheng District, Heilongjiang
Heilongjiang
For the river known in Mandarin as Heilong Jiang, see Amur River' is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northeastern part of the country. "Heilongjiang" literally means Black Dragon River, which is the Chinese name for the Amur. The one-character abbreviation is 黑...

, China, where the Yuan Shi records that battles were fought at that time.

The Europeans, Arabs, and Koreans all obtained firearms in the 14th century. The Turks, Iranians, and Indians all had firearms no later than the 15th century, in each case directly or indirectly from the Europeans. The Japanese did not acquire firearms until the 16th century, and then from the Portuguese rather than the Chinese.

The development behind firearms accelerated during the 1800s and 1900s. Breech-loading became more or less a universal standard for the reloading of most hand-held firearms and continues to be so with some notable exceptions (such as mortars). Instead of loading individual rounds into weapons, magazines holding multiple munitions were adopted - these aided rapid reloading. Automatic and semi-automatic firing mechanisms meant that a single soldier could fire many more rounds in a minute than a vintage weapon could fire over the course of a battle. Polymers and alloys in firearm construction made weaponry progressively lighter and thus easier to deploy. Ammunition changed over the centuries from simple metallic ball-shaped projectiles that rattled down the barrel to bullets and cartridges manufactured to high tolerances. Especially in the past century has particular attention been devoted to accuracy and sighting to make firearms altogether far more accurate than ever before. More than any single factor though, firearms have proliferated due to the advent of mass production - enabling arms manufacturers to produce large quantities of weaponry to a consistent standard.

That said, the basic principle behind firearm operation remains unchanged to this day. A musket of several centuries ago is still similar in principle to a modern-day assault rifle - using the expansion of gases to propel projectiles over long distances - albeit less accurately and rapidly.

Handgun

The smallest of all small arms is the handgun (or pistol
Pistol
When distinguished as a subset of handguns, a pistol is a handgun with a chamber that is integral with the barrel, as opposed to a revolver, wherein the chamber is separate from the barrel as a revolving cylinder. Typically, pistols have an effective range of about 100 feet.-History:The pistol...

). There are three common types of handguns: single-shot
Single-shot
Single-shot firearms are firearms that hold only a single round of ammunition, and must be reloaded after each shot. The history of firearms began with single-shot designs, and many centuries passed before multi-shot designs became commonplace...

 pistols (more common historically), revolvers, and semi-automatic pistols. Revolvers have a number of firing chambers or "charge holes" in a revolving cylinder; each chamber in the cylinder is loaded with a single cartridge. Semi-automatic pistols have a single fixed firing chamber machined into the rear of the barrel, and a magazine, usually removable, so they can be used to fire more than one round. The Italian-made
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 Mateba revolver
Mateba Autorevolver
The Mateba Model 6 Unica is a semi-automatic revolver, one of only a few such models ever produced. It was developed in Italy and sold by the Mateba company. Emilio Ghisoni is listed as the owner of US Patent #4,712,466 which details the operation of the weapon.-Design:The Mateba Mo...

 is a rare "hybrid," a semi-automatic revolver. Each press of the trigger fires a cartridge and rotates the cylinder so that the next cartridge may be fired immediately. The British firearms firm Webley & Scott also made an "automatic revolver" around the turn of the 20th century.

Handguns differ from rifles and shotguns in that they are smaller, lack a shoulder stock (though some pistols like the Luger and Browning Hi-Power
Browning Hi-Power
The Browning Hi-Power is a single-action, 9 mm semi-automatic handgun. It is based on a design by American firearms inventor John Browning, and completed by Dieudonné Saive at Fabrique Nationale of Herstal, Belgium. Browning died in 1926, several years before the design was finalized...

 accept a removable stock allowing its use as a carbine
Carbine
A carbine , from French carabine, is a longarm similar to but shorter than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full rifles, firing the same ammunition at a lower velocity due to a shorter barrel length....

), are usually chambered for less-powerful cartridges, and are designed to be fired with one or two hands. While the term "pistol" can be properly used to describe any handgun, it is common to refer to a single-shot or auto-loading handgun as a "pistol" and a revolver as a "revolver".

The term "automatic pistol" is sometimes used and is somewhat misleading in that the term 'automatic' does not refer to the firing mechanism, but rather the reloading mechanism. When fired, an automatic pistol uses recoil and/or propellant gases to automatically extract the spent cartridge and insert a fresh one from a magazine. Usually (but not always) the firing mechanism is automatically cocked as well. An automatic pistol fires one shot per trigger pull, unlike an automatic firearm such as a machine gun, which fires as long as the trigger is held down and there are unspent cartridges in the chamber or magazine. There are, however, some fully automatic handguns (often referred to as machine pistols) so, to avoid such ambiguity and confusion, "semi-automatic", "autoloader" or "self -loading" are preferred when referring to a firearm that fires only one shot per trigger pull.

Prior to the 19th century, all handguns were single-shot muzzleloaders. With the invention of the revolver in 1818, handguns capable of holding multiple rounds became popular. Certain designs of auto-loading pistol appeared beginning in the 1870s and had largely supplanted revolvers in military applications by the end of World War I. By the end of the 20th century, most handguns carried regularly by military, police and civilians were semi-automatic
Semi-automatic self-loading pistol
A semi-automatic pistol is a type of handgun which uses a single chamber and barrel, with a mechanism powered by the previous shot to load a fresh cartridge into the chamber...

, although revolvers were still widely used. Generally speaking, military and police forces use semi-automatic pistols due to their high magazine capacities (10 to 17 or, in some cases, over 25 rounds of ammunition) and ability to rapidly reload by simply removing the empty magazine and inserting a loaded one. Revolvers are very common among handgun hunters because revolver cartridges are usually more powerful than similar caliber semi-automatic pistol cartridges (which are designed for self-defense) and the strength, simplicity and durability of the revolver design is well-suited to outdoor use. Both designs are common among civilian gun owners, depending on the owner's intention (self-defense, hunting, target shooting, competitions, collecting, etc.).

Handguns come in many shapes and sizes. For example, the "derringer
Derringer
The term derringer is a genericized misspelling of the last name of Henry Deringer, a famous 19th-century maker of small pocket pistols. Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gun makers worldwide, and the name was often misspelled; this misspelling soon became...

" (a generic term based on the mid-19th century "Deringer" brand name) is a very small, short-barreled handgun, usually with one or two barrels but sometimes more (some 19th century derringers had four barrels) that have to be manually reloaded after being fired. Carefully matched single-shot duelling pistol
Duelling pistol
A duelling pistol is a pistol used in a classical duel. As a general rule, they are single-shot flintlock or percussion black powder pistols which fire a lead musket ball...

s were used primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries to settle serious differences among "gentlemen": Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 and Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

 are probably the most prominent Americans who used duelling pistols to settle their differences. Revolvers and auto-loading pistols are produced in a wide variety of sizes, with autoloaders generally categorized as one of four sizes: full-size, compact, sub-compact and ultra-compact. Each size has merits and shortcomings; a smaller handgun usually sacrifices ammunition capacity, recoil damping and/or long-range accuracy for increased concealability and ease of use by smaller-framed shooters. Fully automatic, relatively easily concealed machine pistol
Machine pistol
A machine pistol is a handgun-style, often magazine-fed and self-loading firearm, capable of fully automatic or burst fire, and normally chambered for pistol cartridges. The term is a literal translation of Maschinenpistole, the German term for a hand-held automatic weapon...

s, have been around since the beginning of the 1900s in the form of such firearms as the Steyr M1912
Steyr M1912
The Steyr M1912 was developed in 1911 by the Austrian firm Steyr Mannlicher by Karl Krnka, based on the basic operating system of the Roth-Steyr M1907. It was developed for the Austro-Hungarian Army and adopted in 1912 as the M1912...

 and modified Mauser C96
Mauser C96
The Mauser C96 is a semi-automatic pistol that was originally produced by German arms manufacturer Mauser from 1896 to 1937...

s. Modern examples of machine pistols include the MAC-10
MAC-10
The MAC-10 is a highly compact, blowback operated machine pistol developed by Gordon B. Ingram in 1964.-Design:The M-10 was built predominantly from steel stampings...

, Glock 18, and the Beretta 93R
Beretta 93R
The Beretta Model 93R is a selective-fire machine pistol, designed and manufactured by the Italian Beretta company in the 1970s for police and military use, that is derived from their semi-automatic Model 92...

 and Uzi variants.

Handguns are small and usually made to be carried in a holster, thus leaving both hands free. Small handguns can be easily concealed, thus making them a very common choice for personal protection. In the military, handguns are usually issued to those who are not expected to need more potent firearms, such as general and staff officers, and to those for whom there is no room for a full-sized rifle, such as vehicle crews. In this last role, they often compete with the carbine
Carbine
A carbine , from French carabine, is a longarm similar to but shorter than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full rifles, firing the same ammunition at a lower velocity due to a shorter barrel length....

, a short, light rifle, which is also usually issued to airborne infantry because of its small size. Handguns were historically issued to riflemen as a secondary weapon, however the reliability and firepower of the modern assault rifle (and the increasing amount and cost of equipment carried by a soldier) has made this practice less common as of the end of the 20th century. Outside the military, handguns are the usual armament for police
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 and, where legal, for private citizens.

Private citizens in most jurisdictions usually carry only concealed handguns in public except when hunting, since an unconcealed firearm could attract undue attention, and could therefore be less secure. However, 42 States in the US permit open carry of handguns, sometimes subject to licensing or location restrictions. 8 States and the District of Columbia ban open carry outright or restrict it to the point that it is infeasible for everyday practice (2 states restrict open carry to rural areas, while 6 others allow it only for outdoor sport such as hunting, or ban it completely). 48 US states permit concealed carry
Concealed carry
Concealed carry, or CCW , refers to the practice of carrying a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one's person or in proximity.-In Canada:...

, and several states have well over 200,000 permit holders.

Handguns are also used for many sporting purposes and hunting, although hunting usage is usually viewed as somewhat atypical due to the limited range and accuracy of handguns. Some hunters, however, do their hunting in areas of dense cover where long guns would be awkward, or they relish the increased challenge involved in handgun hunting due to the necessity of approaching the game animal more closely. Handgun ammunition is also generally less expensive than rifle cartridges, and is usually sufficient for many larger pest animals such as feral hogs, coyotes and wolves. Small-bore (e.g. .22 caliber rimfire) handguns have long been very popular for competitive target shooting, partially due to the low cost of both the firearms and the ammunition, and there is also a rapidly growing number of sporting competitions for larger calibers, including "practical shooting
Practical shooting
Practical shooting is a sport which challenges an individual's ability to shoot rapidly and accurately with a full-power handgun, rifle, or shotgun. To do this, shooters take on obstacle-laden shooting courses called stages, some requiring many shots to complete, and others just a few...

", the guidelines of which usually require a handgun of caliber 9x19mm or greater.

Long guns

Most modern long gun
Long gun
The term long gun is used to describe classes of firearm and cannon with longer barrels than other classes. In small arms, a long gun is designed to be fired braced against the shoulder, in contrast to a handgun, while in artillery a long gun would be contrasted with a howitzer or carronade.-Small...

s are either rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

s or shotgun
Shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...

s. Historically, a long smoothbore firearm was known as a musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

. A rifle has a rifled barrel that fires single bullets, while a shotgun fires packets of shot, a single slug
Slug (projectile)
A slug is a term used for a solid ballistic projectile. It is "solid" in the sense of being composed of one piece; the shape can vary widely, including partially hollowed shapes...

, a sabot
Sabot
A sabot is a device used in a firearm or cannon to fire a projectile, such as a bullet, that is smaller than the bore diameter, or which must be held in a precise position. The term is also applied to a battery stub case, a device used similarly to make a small electrical battery usable in a...

, or a specialty round (such as tear gas, bolo shell, or a breaching round
Breaching round
A breaching round or slug-shot is a shotgun shell specially made for the purposes of door breaching. It is typically fired at a range of 6 inches or less, aimed at the hinges or the area between the doorknob and lock and door jamb, and is designed to destroy the object it hits and then disperse...

). Rifles have a very small impact area but a long range and high accuracy. Shotguns have a large impact area with considerably less range and accuracy. However, the larger impact area can compensate for reduced accuracy, since shot spreads during flight; consequently, in hunting, shotguns are generally used for flying game. (See Spreading details).

Rifles and shotguns are commonly used for hunting and often to defend a home or place of business. Usually, large game are hunted with rifles (although shotguns can be used), while birds are hunted with shotguns. Shotguns are sometimes preferred for defending a home or business due to their wide impact area, multiple wound tracks (when using buckshot), shorter range, and reduced penetration of walls, which significantly reduces the likelihood of unintended harm, although the handgun is also common.

There are a variety of types of rifles and shotguns based on the method they are reloaded. Bolt-action and lever-action rifles are manually operated. Manipulation of the bolt or the lever causes the spent cartridge to be removed, the firing mechanism recocked, and a fresh cartridge inserted. These two types of action are almost exclusively used by rifles. Slide-action (commonly called 'pump-action') rifles and shotguns are manually cycled by shuttling the foregrip of the firearm back and forth. This type of action is typically used by shotguns, but several major manufacturers make rifles that use this action.

Both rifles and shotguns also come in break-action varieties that do not have any kind of reloading mechanism at all but must be hand-loaded after each shot. Both rifles and shotguns come in single- and double-barreled varieties; however due to the expense and difficulty of manufacturing, double-barreled rifles are rare. Double-barreled rifles are typically intended for African big-game hunts where the animals are dangerous, ranges are short, and speed is of the essence. Very large and powerful calibers are normal for these firearms.

Rifles have been in nationally featured marksmanship events in Europe and the United States since at least the 18th century, when rifles were first becoming widely available. One of the earliest purely "American" rifle-shooting competitions took place in 1775, when Daniel Morgan was recruiting sharpshooters in Virginia for the impending American War of Independence. In some countries, rifle marksmanship is still a matter of national pride. Some specialized rifles in the larger calibers are claimed to have an accurate range of up to about 1 miles (1,609.3 m), although most have considerably less. In the second half of the 20th century, competitive shotgun sports became perhaps even more popular than riflery, largely due to the motion and immediate feedback in activities such as skeet, trap and sporting clays.

In military use, bolt-action rifles with high-power scopes are common as sniper rifles, however by the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 the traditional bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles used by infantrymen had been supplanted by select-fire designs known as "automatic rifles" (see "Automatic Rifle" in the next section)

Automatic weapons

An automatic weapon is a firearm capable of firing multiple rounds with one pull of the trigger. The Gatling gun
Gatling gun
The Gatling gun is one of the best known early rapid-fire weapons and a forerunner of the modern machine gun. It is well known for its use by the Union forces during the American Civil War in the 1860s, which was the first time it was employed in combat...

 was an early crank-operated weapon that may have been the first automatic weapon, though the modern trigger-actuated machine gun was not widely introduced until the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 with the German "Spandau
Maschinengewehr 08
The Maschinengewehr 08, or MG08, was the German Army's standard machine gun in World War I and is an adoption of Hiram S. Maxim's original 1884 Maxim Gun. It was produced in a number of variants during the war. The MG 08 remained in service until the outbreak of World War II due to shortages of...

" and British Lewis gun
Lewis Gun
The Lewis Gun is a World War I–era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War...

. Automatic weapons are largely restricted to military and paramilitary organizations, though many automatic designs are infamous for their use by organized crime.

Automatic firearms have long been available to US civilians, under increasingly restrictive conditions. Importation of machine guns for civilian sale in the US was banned by the Gun Control Act of 1968
Gun Control Act of 1968
The Gun Control Act of 1968 , by president Lyndon Johnson, is a federal law in the United States that broadly regulates the firearms industry and firearms owners...

. The Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act now prohibits US civilian ownership or transfer of automatic weapons unless they were registered before 1986-05-19. Non-prohibited automatic weapons can be legally owned by civilians who pay a $200 tax to the BATFE, pass a background investigation, and, in some jurisdictions, receive approval from local law enforcement. Permission must be received directly from the BATFE to move a machine gun between states, even if it does not change ownership. An extremely limited number of US citizens have special permits from the BATFE to buy, and even import, automatic weapons produced and registered after 1986. The use of such weapons is tightly restricted to the film industry under direct supervision of the master of arms holding the permit, and the weapons are often altered so they will not fire "factory" ammunition, but rather only special "light-primer" blank cartridges
Blank (cartridge)
A blank is a type of cartridge for a firearm that contains gunpowder but no bullet or shot. When fired, the blank makes a flash and an explosive sound . Blanks are often used for simulation , training, and for signaling...

 produced specifically for the film industry. This arrangement allows weapons first produced after 1986 to be used by actors in films and TV series produced inside the US.

Machine gun

A machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 is a fully automatic emplaceable weapon, most often separated from other classes of automatic weapon by the use of belt-fed ammunition (though some designs employ drum, pan or hopper magazines), generally in a rifle-inspired caliber ranging between 5.56mm NATO for a light machine gun
Light machine gun
A light machine gun is a machine gun designed to be employed by an individual soldier, with or without an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. Light machine guns are often used as squad automatic weapons.-Characteristics:...

 to as large as .50 BMG
.50 BMG
The .50 Browning Machine Gun or 12.7×99mm NATO is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s. Entering service officially in 1921, the round is based on a greatly scaled-up .30-06 cartridge...

 or larger for crewed or aircraft weapons. Although not widely fielded until World War I, early machine guns were being used by militaries in the second half of the 19th century. Notables in the U.S. arsenal during the 20th century included the Browning M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun and Browning M1919 .30-caliber medium machine gun. Machine guns of this type were primarily defensive firearms crewed by at least two men, mainly because of the difficulties involved in moving and placing them, their ammunition, and their tripod. In contrast, modern light machine gun
Light machine gun
A light machine gun is a machine gun designed to be employed by an individual soldier, with or without an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. Light machine guns are often used as squad automatic weapons.-Characteristics:...

s such as the FN Minimi
FN Minimi
The Minimi is a Belgian 5.56mm light machine gun developed by Fabrique Nationale in Herstal by Ernest Vervier. First introduced in 1974, it has entered service with the armed forces of over thirty countries...

 are often wielded by a single infantryman. They provide a large ammunition capacity and a high rate of fire, and are typically used to give suppressing fire during infantry movement. Accuracy on machine guns varies as the Bren Gun was considered to be accurate but other machine guns are inaccurate. Machine guns are also often mounted on vehicles or helicopters, and have often been used since World War I as offensive firearms in fighter aircraft and tanks (e.g. for air combat or suppressing fire for ground troop support).

The definition of machine gun is different in US law. The National Firearms Act
National Firearms Act
The National Firearms Act , 73rd Congress, Sess. 2, ch. 757, , enacted on June 26, 1934, currently codified as amended as , is an Act of Congress that, in general, imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. The...

 and Firearm Owners Protection Act
Firearm Owners Protection Act
The Firearm Owners' Protection Act , , codified at et seq., is a United States federal law that revised many statutes in the Gun Control Act of 1968.-Federal Firearms License regulatory reform:...

 define a "machine gun" in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 code Title 26, Subtitle E, Chapter 53, Subchapter B, Part 1, § 5845 as:
"... any firearm which shoots ... automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger". "Machine gun" is therefore largely synonymous with "automatic weapon" in the US civilian parlance, covering all automatic firearms.

Submachine gun

A submachine gun
Submachine gun
A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

 is a magazine-fed firearm, usually smaller than other automatic firearms, that fires pistol
Pistol
When distinguished as a subset of handguns, a pistol is a handgun with a chamber that is integral with the barrel, as opposed to a revolver, wherein the chamber is separate from the barrel as a revolving cylinder. Typically, pistols have an effective range of about 100 feet.-History:The pistol...

-caliber ammunition; for this reason submachine guns are also commonly called machine pistols, especially when referring to handgun-sized designs such as the Škorpion vz. 61 and Glock 18c. Well-known examples are the Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i Uzi and Heckler & Koch
Heckler & Koch
Heckler & Koch GmbH is a German defense manufacturing company that produces various small arms. Some of their products include the SA80, MP5 submachine gun, G3 automatic rifle, the G36 assault rifle, the HK 416, the MP7 personal defense weapon, the USP series of handguns, and the high-precision...

 MP5 which use the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge, and the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Thompson submachine gun
Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals...

 which fires .45 ACP
.45 ACP
The .45 ACP , also known as the .45 Auto by C.I.P., is a cartridge designed by John Browning in 1904, for use in his prototype Colt semi-automatic .45 pistol and eventually the M1911 pistol adopted by the United States Army in 1911.-Design and history:The U.S...

. Because of their small size and limited projectile penetration compared to high-power rifle rounds, submachine guns are commonly favored by military, paramilitary and police forces for close-quarters engagements such as inside buildings, in urban areas or in trench complexes.

A related class of firearm is the "Personal Defense Weapon" or PDW, which is in simplest terms a submachine gun designed to fire rounds similar to rifle cartridges. A submachine gun is desirable for its compact size and ammunition capacity, however a pistol round lacks the penetrating capability of a rifle round. Conversely, rifle bullets can pierce light armor and are easier to shoot accurately, but even a carbine
Carbine
A carbine , from French carabine, is a longarm similar to but shorter than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full rifles, firing the same ammunition at a lower velocity due to a shorter barrel length....

 such as the Colt M4 is larger and/or longer than a submachine gun, making it harder to maneuver in close quarters. The solution many firearms manufacturers have presented is a weapon resembling a submachine gun in size and general configuration, but which fires a higher-powered armor-penetrating round (often specially designed for the weapon), thus combining the advantages of a carbine and submachine gun. The FN P90
FN P90
The FN P90 is a selective fire personal defense weapon designed and manufactured by FN Herstal in Belgium. The P90's name is taken from 1990, the year it was introduced...

 and H&K MP7 are examples.

Automatic rifle

An automatic rifle
Automatic rifle
Automatic rifle is a term generally used to describe a semi-automatic rifle chambered for a rifle cartridge, capable of delivering both semi- and full automatic fire...

 is a magazine-fed long gun, wielded by a single infantryman, that is chambered for rifle cartridges and capable of automatic fire. The Browning Automatic Rifle
Browning Automatic Rifle
The Browning Automatic Rifle was a family of United States automatic rifles and light machine guns used by the United States and numerous other countries during the 20th century. The primary variant of the BAR series was the M1918, chambered for the .30-06 Springfield rifle cartridge and designed...

 was the first US infantry weapon of this type, and was generally used for suppressive or support fire in the role now usually filled by the light machine gun
Light machine gun
A light machine gun is a machine gun designed to be employed by an individual soldier, with or without an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. Light machine guns are often used as squad automatic weapons.-Characteristics:...

. Other early automatic rifles include the Federov Avtomat and the Huot automatic rifle
Huot automatic rifle
The Huot was a Canadian World War I light machine gun project.-Design and development:In 1916, the Canadian Expeditionary Force was desperately short of light machine guns. Since the Ross rifle had finally been taken out of service, there were large numbers of surplus rifles.That year, Joseph Huot,...

. Later, the German forces fielded the Sturmgewehr 44
Sturmgewehr 44
The StG 44 was an assault rifle developed in Nazi Germany during World War II and was the first of its kind to see major deployment, considered by many historians to be the first modern assault rifle...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, a light automatic rifle firing a reduced power "intermediate cartridge
Intermediate cartridges
An intermediate cartridge is a military assault rifle cartridge that is less powerful than typical full power battle rifle cartridges such as the 7.92mm Mauser or US .30-06, but still significantly more powerful than pistol cartridges...

". This design was to become the model for the "assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

" subclass of automatic weapons. After World War II, the M14
M14 rifle
The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO  ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 was used for U.S...

 (a gas-actuated select-fire design that replaced the M1 Garand
M1 Garand
The M1 Garand , was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to the infantry of any nation. Called "the greatest battle implement ever devised" by General George S...

) was introduced in the US, followed by the M16A1 assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

 which was widely used in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. Also soon after World War II, the Automatic Kalashnikov AK-47
AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

 assault rifle was fielded by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and other Communist allies including the Eastern Bloc, China, North Korea, and North Vietnam. Variants of both of the M16 and AK-47 are still in wide international use today, though other automatic rifle designs have since been introduced. A smaller version of the M16A2, the M4 carbine
M4 carbine
The M4 carbine is a family of firearms tracing its lineage back to earlier carbine versions of the M16, all based on the original AR-15 designed by Eugene Stoner and made by ArmaLite. It is a shorter and lighter variant of the M16A2 assault rifle, with 80% parts commonality.It is a gas-operated,...

, is widely used by US and NATO tank and vehicle crews, airbornes, support staff, and in other scenarios where space is limited. The IMI Galil
IMI Galil
The Galil is a family of Israeli small arms designed by Yisrael Galil and Yaacov Lior in the late 1960s and produced by Israel Military Industries Ltd of Ramat HaSharon...

, an Israeli-designed weapon similar to the AK-47, is in use by Israel, Italy, Myanmar, the Philippines, Peru, and Colombia. Swiss Arms AG of Switzerland produces the Sig 550 assault rifle used by France, Chile, and Spain among others, and Steyr Mannlicher
Steyr Mannlicher
Steyr Mannlicher is a firearms manufacturer based in the city of Steyr, Austria. Originally a part of the Steyr-Daimler-Puch manufacturing conglomerate, it became independent when the conglomerate was broken in 1990.-History:...

 produces the AUG
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

, a bullpup rifle in use in Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Saudi Arabia among other nations.

Muzzle-loaded hand cannon

The original predecessor of all firearms, the hand cannon was loaded with gunpowder and the shot (initially lead shot
Lead shot
Lead shot is a collective term for small balls of lead. These were the original projectiles for muskets and early rifles, but today lead shot is fired primarily from shotguns. It is also used for a variety of other purposes...

, later replaced by cast iron) through the muzzle, while a fuse was placed at the rear. This fuse was lighted, causing the gunpowder to ignite and propel the cannonball. In military use, the standard hand cannon was tremendously powerful, while also being somewhat useless due to relative inability of the gunner to aim the weapon, or control the ballistic properties of the projectile. Recoil could be absorbed by bracing the barrel against the ground using a wooden support, the forerunner of the stock. Neither the amount of gunpowder, nor the consistency in projectile dimensions were controlled, with resulting inaccuracy in firing due to windage
Windage
Windage is a force created on an object by friction when there is relative movement between air and the object.There are two causes of windage:# the object is moving and being slowed by resistance from the air...

, the difference in diameter between the bore and the shot. The hand cannons were replaced by lighter carriage-mounted artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 pieces, and ultimately the arquebus
Arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

.

Muzzleloader

Muzzle-loading
Muzzleloader
A muzzleloader is any firearm into which the projectile and usually the propellant charge is loaded from the muzzle of the gun . This is distinct from the more popular modern designs of breech-loading firearms...

 muskets (smooth-bored long guns) were among the first small arms developed. The firearm was loaded through the muzzle with gunpowder, optionally some wadding and then a bullet (usually a solid lead ball, but musketeers could shoot stones when they ran out of bullets). Greatly improved muzzleloaders (usually rifled instead of smooth-bored) are manufactured today and have many enthusiasts, many of whom hunt large and small game with their guns. Muzzleloaders have to be manually reloaded after each shot; a skilled archer could fire multiple arrows faster than most early muskets could be reloaded and fired, although by the mid-18th century, when muzzleloaders became the standard small armament of the military, a well-drilled soldier could fire six rounds in a minute using prepared cartridges in his musket. Before then, effectiveness of muzzleloaders was hindered by both the low reloading speed and, before the firing mechanism was perfected, the very high risk posed by the firearm to the person attempting to fire it.

One interesting solution to the reloading problem was the "Roman Candle Gun" with superposed load
Superposed load
A superposed load or stacked charge is a method used by various muzzleloading firearms, from matchlocks to caplocks, as well as newer Metal Storm weapons, to fire multiple shots from a single barrel without reloading.-Design:...

s. This was a muzzleloader in which multiple charges and balls were loaded one on top of the other, with a small hole in each ball to allow the subsequent charge to be ignited after the one ahead of it was ignited. It was neither a very reliable nor popular firearm, but it enabled a form of "automatic" fire long before the advent of the machine gun.

Matchlock

Matchlock
Matchlock
The matchlock was the first mechanism, or "lock" invented to facilitate the firing of a hand-held firearm. This design removed the need to lower by hand a lit match into the weapon's flash pan and made it possible to have both hands free to keep a firm grip on the weapon at the moment of firing,...

s were the first and simplest small arms firing mechanisms developed. Using the matchlock mechanism, the powder in the gun barrel was ignited by a piece of burning cord called a "match". The match was wedged into one end of an S-shaped piece of steel. As the trigger (often actually a lever) was pulled, the match was brought into the open end of a "touch hole" at the base of the gun barrel, which contained a very small quantity of gunpowder, igniting the main charge of gunpowder in the gun barrel. The match usually had to be relit after each firing.

Wheellock

The wheellock
Wheellock
A wheellock, wheel-lock or wheel lock, is a friction-wheel mechanism to cause a spark for firing a firearm. It was the next major development in firearms technology after the matchlock and the first self-igniting firearm. The mechanism is so-called because it uses a rotating steel wheel to provide...

 action, a successor to the matchlock, predated the flintlock. Despite its many faults, the wheellock was a significant improvement over the matchlock in terms of both convenience and safety, since it eliminated the need to keep a smoldering match in proximity to loose gunpowder. It operated using a small wheel much like that on cigarette lighters which was wound up with a key before use and which, when the trigger was pulled, spun against a flint, creating the shower of sparks that ignited the powder in the touch hole. Supposedly invented by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 Renaissance man
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

, the wheel lock action was an innovation that was not widely adopted.

Flintlock

The flintlock
Flintlock
Flintlock is the general term for any firearm based on the flintlock mechanism. The term may also apply to the mechanism itself. Introduced at the beginning of the 17th century, the flintlock rapidly replaced earlier firearm-ignition technologies, such as the doglock, matchlock and wheellock...

 action was a major innovation in small arms design. The spark used to ignite the gunpowder in the touch hole was supplied by a sharpened piece of flint clamped in the jaws of a "cock" which, when released by the trigger, struck a piece of steel called the "frizzen
Frizzen
The frizzen, historically called the steel, is an "L" shaped piece of steel hinged at the rear used in flintlock firearms. It is positioned over the flash pan so as to enclose a small priming charge of black powder next to the flash hole that is drilled through the barrel into where the main...

" to create the necessary sparks. (The spring-loaded arm that holds a piece of flint or pyrite is referred to as a cock because of its resemblance to a rooster.) The cock had to be manually reset after each firing, and the flint had to be replaced periodically due to wear from striking the frizzen. (See also flintlock mechanism
Flintlock mechanism
The flintlock mechanism was a firing mechanism used on muskets and rifles in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It is commonly referred to as a "flintlock" , though that term is also commonly used for the weapons themselves as a whole, and not just the lock mechanism.The flintlock was developed in...

, snaphance
Snaphance
A Snaphance or Snaphaunce is a particular type of mechanism for firing a gun . The name is Dutch in origin but the mechanism can not be attributed to the Netherlands with certainty. It is the mechanical progression of the wheel-lock firing mechanism and the predecessor of the flintlock firing...

, miquelet
Miquelet
Miquelet Lock is a modern collector/auctioneer/curator term, largely used by and for the benefit of the English speaking world, widely applied to a distinctive form of snaplock, originally as a flint-against-steel ignition form, prevalent in the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas, North...

) The flintlock was widely used during the 18th and 19th centuries in both muskets and rifles.

Percussion cap

Percussion cap
Percussion cap
The percussion cap, introduced around 1830, was the crucial invention that enabled muzzleloading firearms to fire reliably in any weather.Before this development, firearms used flintlock ignition systems which produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the...

s (caplock mechanism
Caplock mechanism
The caplock mechanism or "percussion" lock was the successor of the flintlock mechanism in firearm technology, and used a percussion cap struck by the hammer to set off the main charge, rather than using a piece of flint to strike a steel frizzen....

s), coming into wide service in the 19th century, were a dramatic improvement over flintlocks. With the percussion cap mechanism, the small primer charge of gunpowder used in all preceding small arms was replaced by a completely self-contained explosive charge contained in a small brass "cap". The cap was fastened to the touch hole of the gun (extended to form a "nipple") and ignited by the impact of the gun's "hammer". (The hammer is roughly the same as the cock found on flintlocks except that it doesn't clamp onto anything.) In the case of percussion caps the hammer was hollow on the end to fit around the cap in order to keep the cap from fragmenting and injuring the shooter.

Once struck, the flame from the cap in turn ignited the main charge of gunpowder, as with the flintlock, but there was no longer any need to charge the touch hole with gunpowder, and even better, the touch hole was no longer exposed to the elements. As a result, the percussion cap mechanism was considerably safer, far more weatherproof, and vastly more reliable (cloth-bound cartridges containing a premeasured charge of gunpowder and a ball had been in regular military service for many years, but the exposed gunpowder in the entry to the touch hole had long been a source of misfires). All muzzleloaders manufactured since the second half of the 19th century use percussion caps except those built as replicas of the flintlock or earlier small arms.

Cartridges

A major innovation in small arms and light artillery came in the second half of the 19th century when ammunition, previously delivered as separate bullets and powder, was combined in a single metallic (usually brass) cartridge
Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

 containing a percussion cap, powder, and a bullet in one weatherproof package. The main technical advantage of the brass cartridge case was the effective and reliable sealing of high pressure gasses at the breech, as the gas pressure forces the cartridge case to expand outward, pressing it firmly against the inside of the gun barrel chamber. This prevents the leakage of hot gas which could injure the shooter. The brass cartridge also opened the way for modern repeating arms, by uniting the bullet, gunpowder and primer into one assembly.

Before this, a "cartridge" was simply a premeasured quantity of gunpowder together with a ball in a small cloth bag (or rolled paper cylinder), which also acted as wadding for the charge and ball. This early form of cartridge had to be rammed into the muzzleloader's barrel, and either a small charge of gunpowder in the touch hole or an external percussion cap mounted on the touch hole ignited the gunpowder in the cartridge. Cartridges with built-in percussion caps (called "primers") continue to this day to be the standard in firearms. In cartridge-firing firearms, a hammer (or a firing pin struck by the hammer) strikes the cartridge primer, which then ignites the gunpowder within. The primer charge is at the base of the cartridge, either within the rim (a "rimfire" cartridge) or in a small percussion cap embedded in the center of the base (a "centerfire" cartridge). As a rule, centerfire cartridges are more powerful than rimfire cartridges, operating at considerably higher pressures than rimfire cartridges. Centerfire cartridges are also safer, as a dropped rimfire cartridge has the potential to discharge if its rim strikes the ground with sufficient force to ignite the primer. This is practically impossible with most centerfire cartridges.

Nearly all contemporary firearms load cartridges directly into their breech
Breech-loading weapon
A breech-loading weapon is a firearm in which the cartridge or shell is inserted or loaded into a chamber integral to the rear portion of a barrel....

. Some additionally or exclusively load from a magazine
Magazine (firearm)
A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines may be integral to the firearm or removable . The magazine functions by moving the cartridges stored in the magazine into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action...

 that holds multiple cartridges. A magazine is defined as a part of the firearm which exists to store ammunition and assist in its feeding by the action into the breech (such as through the rotation of a revolver's cylinder or by spring-loaded platforms in most pistol and rifle designs). Some magazines, such as that of most centerfire hunting rifles and all revolvers, are internal to and inseparable from the firearm, and are loaded by using a clip
Clip (ammunition)
A clip is a device that is used to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the magazine or cylinder of a firearm. This speeds up the process of loading and reloading the firearm as several rounds can be loaded at once, rather than one round being loaded at a...

, which is a device that holds the ammunition by the rim of the case and is designed to assist the shooter in reloading the firearm's magazine. Examples include revolver speedloader
Speedloader
A speedloader is a device used for loading a firearm or firearm magazine that will run out of ammunition very quickly. Generally, speedloaders are used for loading all chambers of a revolver simultaneously, although speedloaders are also used for the loading of fixed tubular magazines of shotguns...

s and the clip used to store rounds for loading into the M1 Garand
M1 Garand
The M1 Garand , was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to the infantry of any nation. Called "the greatest battle implement ever devised" by General George S...

. In this sense, "magazines" and "clips", though often used synonymously, refer to different types of devices.

Repeating, semi-automatic, and automatic firearms

Many small arms are "single shot" firearms: i.e., each time a cartridge is fired, the operator must manually re-cock the firearm and load another cartridge. The classic single-barreled shotgun is a good example. A firearm that can load multiple cartridges as the firearm is re-cocked is considered a "repeating firearm" or simply a "repeater". A lever-action rifle, a pump-action shotgun, and most bolt-action rifles are good examples of repeating firearms. A firearm that automatically re-cocks and reloads the next round with each trigger pull is considered a semi-automatic or autoloading firearm. An automatic (or "fully automatic") firearm is one that automatically re-cocks, reloads, and fires as long as the trigger is depressed. Many modern military firearms have a selective-fire option, which is a mechanical switch that allows the firearm be fired either in the semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. In the current M16A2 and M16A4 variants of the US-made M16
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

, continuous fully automatic fire is not possible, having been replaced by an automatic burst of three cartridges (this conserves ammunition and increases controllability).

The first "rapid firing" firearms were usually similar to the 19th century Gatling gun, which would fire cartridges from a magazine as fast as and as long as the operator turned a crank. Eventually, the "rapid" firing mechanism was perfected and miniaturized to the extent that either the recoil of the firearm or the gas pressure from firing could be used to operate it, thus the operator needed only to pull a trigger (which made the firing mechanisms truly "automatic"). Automatic rifles such as the Browning Automatic Rifle were in common use by the military during the early part of the 20th century, and automatic rifles that fired handgun rounds, known as submachine guns, also appeared in this time.

Submachine guns were originally about the size of carbines. Because they fire pistol ammunition, they have limited long-range use, but in close combat can be used in fully automatic in a controllable manner due to the lighter recoil of the pistol ammunition. They are also extremely inexpensive and simple to build in time of war, enabling a nation to quickly arm its military. In the latter half of the 20th century, submachine guns were being miniaturized to the point of being only slightly larger than some large handguns. The most widely used submachine gun at the end of the 20th century was the Heckler & Koch MP5. The MP5 is actually designated as a "machine pistol" by Heckler & Koch (MP5 stands for Maschinenpistole 5, or Machine Pistol 5), although some reserve this designation for even smaller submachine guns such as the MAC-10, which are about the size and shape of pistols.

Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 brought the world's attention to what eventually became the class of firearm most widely adopted by the military: the assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

 (see Sturmgewehr 44
Sturmgewehr 44
The StG 44 was an assault rifle developed in Nazi Germany during World War II and was the first of its kind to see major deployment, considered by many historians to be the first modern assault rifle...

). An assault rifle is usually slightly smaller than a battle rifle
Battle rifle
A battle rifle is a military service rifle that fires a full power rifle cartridge, such as 7.62x51mm NATO. While the designation of battle rifle is usually given to post-World War II select fire infantry rifles such as the H&K G3, the FN FAL or the M14, this term can also apply to older military...

 such as the K98k, but the chief differences defining an assault rifle are select-fire capability and the use of a rifle round of lesser power, known as an intermediate cartridge. This reduces recoil allowing for controllable bursts at short range like a submachine gun, while retaining rifle-like accuracy at medium ranges. Generally, assault rifles have mechanisms that allow the user to select between single shots, fully automatic bursts, or fully automatic fire. Universally, civilian versions of military assault rifles are strictly semiautomatic.

Soviet engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov
Mikhail Kalashnikov
Lieutenant General Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov is a Russian small arms designer, most famous for designing the AK-47 assault rifle, the AKM and the AK-74.-Early life:...

 quickly adapted the German concept, using a less-powerful 7.62x39mm cartridge derived from the standard 7.62x54mm Russian battle rifle round, to produce the AK-47
AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

, which has become the world's most widely used assault rifle. In United States, the assault rifle design was later in coming; The replacement for the M1 Garand of WWII was another John Garand design chambered for the new 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge; the select-fire M14
M14 rifle
The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO  ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 was used for U.S...

, which was used by the US military until the 1960s. The significant recoil of the M14 when fired in full automatic mode was seen as a problem as it reduced accuracy, and in the 1960s it was replaced by Eugene Stoner
Eugene Stoner
Eugene Morrison Stoner is the man most associated with the design of the AR-15, which was adopted by the US military as the M16...

's AR-15
AR-15
The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle, with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation. It is manufactured with the extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials....

, which also marked a switch from powerful .30 caliber cartridges used by the US military up until early in the Vietnam War to the much smaller but far lighter and light recoiling .223-caliber (5.56 mm) intermediate cartridge. The military later designated the AR-15 as the "M16
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

". The civilian version of the M16 continues to be known as the AR-15 and looks exactly like the military version, although to conform to BATFE regulations in the U.S. it lacks the mechanism that permits fully automatic fire.

Modern designs call for compact weapons retaining firepower. The bullpup
Bullpup
Bullpups are firearm configurations in which the action is located behind the trigger group and alongside the shooter's face, so there is no wasted space for the buttstock as in conventional designs. This permits a shorter firearm length for the same barrel length for improved maneuverability, and...

 design, by mounting the magazine behind the trigger, unifies the accuracy and firepower of the traditional assault rifle with the compact size of the submachine gun (though submachine guns are still used); examples are the French FAMAS or the British SA80
SA80
The SA80 is a British family of 5.56mm small arms. It is a selective fire, gas-operated assault rifle. SA80 prototypes were trialled in 1976 and production was completed in 1994....

.

Recently, smaller but exceedingly penetrative ammunition types have been introduced, as to allow personal defence weapons to penetrate ballistic armour. Such designs are the basis for the FN P90 and Heckler & Koch MP7
Heckler & Koch MP7
The MP7 is a German submachine gun manufactured by Heckler & Koch and chambered for the 4.6×30mm cartridge. It was designed with the new cartridge to meet NATO requirements published in 1989, as these requirements call for a personal defense weapon class firearm, with a greater ability to defeat...

. Caseless ammunition
Caseless ammunition
Caseless ammunition is a type of small arms ammunition that eliminates the cartridge case that typically holds the primer, propellant, and projectile together as a unit...

 is another trend; an example is the German Heckler & Koch G11
Heckler & Koch G11
The Heckler & Koch G11 is a non-production prototype assault rifle developed during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s by Gesellschaft für Hülsenlose Gewehrsysteme , a conglomeration of companies headed by firearm manufacturer Heckler & Koch , Dynamit Nobel The Heckler & Koch G11 is a non-production...

. The flechette
Flechette
A flechette is a pointed steel projectile, with a vaned tail for stable flight. The name comes from French , "little arrow" or "dart", and sometimes retains the acute accent in English: fléchette.-Bulk and artillery use:...

 is yet another improvement over traditional ammunition, allowing for extreme penetration abilities and a very flat trajectory. However, it is gained at the cost of stopping power
Stopping power
Stopping power is a colloquial term used to describe the ability of a firearm or other weapon to cause a penetrating ballistic injury to a target, human or animal, sufficient to incapacitate the target where it stands....

.

See also

  • Antique guns
    Antique guns
    An antique firearm is, loosely speaking, a firearm designed and manufactured prior to the beginning of the 20th century. The Boer War is often used as a cut-off event, although the exact definition of what constitutes an "antique firearm" varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction...

  • Artillery
    Artillery
    Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

    , for larger guns
  • Celebratory gunfire
  • Firearm (tool)
    Firearm (tool)
    A firearm can be used primarily as a tool, instead of as a weapon, to project either single or multiple objects at high velocity through a controlled explosion. The firing is achieved by the gases produced through rapid, confined burning of a propellant. This process of rapid burning is technically...

  • Militaria
    Militaria
    Militaria are artifacts or replicas of military, police, etc., collected for their historical significance. Such antiques include firearms, swords, knives, and other weapons such as; uniforms, helmets, other military headgear, and armour; military orders and decorations; challenge coins and...

  • Military technology and equipment


Gun technology and science
  • Ballistics
    Ballistics
    Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

     (terminal
    Terminal ballistics
    Terminal ballistics, a sub-field of ballistics, is the study of the behavior of a projectile when it hits its target. It is often referred to as stopping power when dealing with human or other living targets. Terminal ballistics is relevant both for small caliber projectiles as well as for large...

    )
  • Cartridge
    Cartridge (firearms)
    A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

  • Electrothermal-chemical technology
    Electrothermal-chemical technology
    Electrothermal-chemical technology is an attempt to increase accuracy and muzzle energy of future tank, artillery, and close-in weapon system guns by improving the predictability and rate of expansion of propellants inside the barrel....

  • Firearm action
    Firearm action
    In firearms terminology, an action is the physical mechanism that manipulates cartridges and/or seals the breech. The term is also used to describe the method in which cartridges are loaded, locked, and extracted from the mechanism. Actions are generally categorized by the type of mechanism used...

  • Gunsmith
    Gunsmith
    A gunsmith is a person who repairs, modifies, designs, or builds firearms. This occupation is different from an armorer. The armorer primarily maintains weapons and limited repairs involving parts replacement and possibly work involving accurization...

  • Physics
    Physics of firearms
    From the viewpoint of physics , a firearm, as for most weapons, is a system for delivering maximum destructive energy to the target with minimum delivery of energy on the shooter. The momentum delivered to the target however cannot be any more than that on the shooter...

  • Rheological fluid-based mechanism
    Rheological fluids based firearms mechanisms
    A rheological fluid-based mechanism is a method for designing and powering firearms and ordnance. The mechanisms currently used by firearms and ordnance utilize combustion of gunpowder to propel ammunition...

  • Suppressor
    Suppressor
    A suppressor, sound suppressor, sound moderator, or silencer, is a device attached to or part of the barrel of a firearm which reduces the amount of noise and flash generated by firing the weapon....

  • Telescopic sight
    Telescopic sight
    A telescopic sight, commonly called a scope, is a sighting device that is based on an optical refracting telescope. They are equipped with some form of graphic image pattern mounted in an optically appropriate position in their optical system to give an accurate aiming point...

  • Weapon mount
    Weapon mount
    A weapon mount is a weapon component used to secure an armament. Weapon mounts can be broken down into two categories: static mounts and non-static mounts.-Static mount:...



Guns and society
  • Open carry
    Open Carry
    In the United States, open carry is shorthand terminology for "openly carrying a firearm in public", as distinguished from concealed carry, where firearms cannot be seen by the casual observer....

  • Culture
  • Law
    Gun law
    A gun law is a law that pertains to firearms. Restrictions on gun ownership and use vary greatly both by country and the type of firearm used....

  • Politics
    Gun politics
    Gun politics addresses safety issues and ideologies related to firearms through criminal and noncriminal use. Gun politics deals with rules, regulations, and restrictions on the use, ownership, and distribution of firearms.-National sovereignty:...

  • Safety
    Gun safety
    Gun safety is a collection of rules and recommendations that can be applied when handling firearms. The purpose of gun safety is to eliminate or minimize the risks of unintentional death, injury or damage caused by improper handling of firearms....

  • Concealed carry in the United States
  • List of United States firearms topics
  • Small arms proliferation
    Small arms proliferation
    Small arms proliferation is a term used by organizations and individuals advocating the control of small arms and their trade; the term has no precise definition...



Gun-related terminology
  • Saturday-night special
    Saturday night special
    The phrase Saturday night special is pejorative slang used in the United States and Canada for any inexpensive handgun. Saturday night specials have been defined as compact, inexpensive handguns with low perceived quality; however, there is no official definition of "Saturday night special" under...

  • Small arms
    Small arms
    Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

  • Gauge (bore diameter)
    Gauge (bore diameter)
    The gauge of a firearm is a unit of measurement used to express the diameter of the barrel. Gauge is determined from the weight of a solid sphere of lead that will fit the bore of the firearm, and is expressed as the multiplicative inverse of the sphere's weight as a fraction of a pound . Thus...



Types of firearms

World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...



United States Armed Forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...



Firearms groups around the world
  • Dominion of Canada Rifle Association
    Dominion of Canada Rifle Association
    The Dominion of Canada Rifle Association ' was founded in 1868 and incorporated by an Act of Parliament 63-64 Victoria Chapter 99, assented to July 7, 1890, to promote and encourage the training of marksmanship throughout Canada.-Mission:...

  • National Rifle Association
    National Rifle Association
    The National Rifle Association of America is an American non-profit 501 civil rights organization which advocates for the protection of the Second Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights and the promotion of firearm ownership rights as well as marksmanship, firearm safety, and the protection...

  • National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom
    National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom
    The National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom is the governing body of full bore rifle and pistol shooting sports in the United Kingdom.- History :...

  • PROGUN
    PROGUN
    PROGUN is a Philippine-based firearms advocacy group which stands for "Peaceful Responsible Owners of Guns." It was founded in 1987 to make it easier for Filipino citizens to own and carry firearms...

     (Philippines)


Manufacturers

External links

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