Classification of Firearms

1. Classification based on size and handling mechanism

1. Handguns

Firearms that are short and compact and can be held in one hand. They have generally short barrels. They are further classified into two types:

(a) Revolver

A revolver is a short barrel firearm having a cylinder at the rear of the barrel. This cylinder has various chambers in which the cartridge is placed. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer facing one of the chambers of the cylinder strikes the primer of the cartridge, and hence the bullet fires.

(b) Pistol


A pistol is also a short barrel firearm having a magazine loaded with bullets. The magazine has a spring beneath it which push the new cartridge into the firing chamber after the previous bullet is fired and the process keeps going on till the magazine got empty. Pistols are available in all calibers ranging from 5 to 12 mm.

2. Shoulder Gun

Firearms that are long barrels and relatively bigger and fired only with the assistance of a shoulder are known as shoulder guns. A rifle is a common example of a shoulder gun.


Rifled firearms have long barrels that can fire high-power ammunition. This barrel contains land and grooves which provides rotational motion to the fired bullet around its axis. This helps the bullet in providing stability and reduces air resistance.

2. Classification based on Action

This deals with the different mechanisms of loading and ejecting a cartridge from the firearm. The following are different actions:

(i) Lever action

The firearm uses a lever that is used to expel out the old cartridge and load a new round when the lever is pulled.

(ii) Pump action

This is mainly used in shotguns in which a pump lever is attached to the lower end of the barrel of the gun and when the pump slides, a new round is filled into the chamber, expelling out the old cartridge.

(iii) Bolt action

It works by manually handling the bolt present on the right side of the weapon which when pulled, expels the old cartridge, and a new cartridge is filled.

3. Classification based on loading

Following are the firearms based on different loading mechanisms:

(i) Muzzle-loading

A firearm in which the propellant and projectile (bullet) are loaded through the muzzle end present at the opening of the barrel of the firearm.

(ii) Breech-loading

A firearm in which the propellant and projectile (bullet) are loaded through the breech end present above the trigger of the firearm.

(iii) Magazine loading

A firearm in which the projectile is fed into the firing chamber by a magazine attached to it. The magazine is detachable and automatically loads a new cartridge into the chamber.

4. Classification based on bore characteristics

Based on the bore characteristics present in the barrel of the firearm, they are classified as follows:

(i) Smooth bore

Smooth bore

Firearms that do not have land and grooves in the barrel are known as smoothbore firearms. They are generally improvised and country-made firearms and are used to fire lead shots (pellets) and sometimes balls (slug).

(ii) Rifled bore

Rifled bore

Firearms that have the land and grooves in the barrel are known as rifled bore firearms. It provides rotational motion to the bullet around its axis which helps to stabilize the flight and reduce air resistance.

5. Classification based on firing pin

A firing pin is a part of a firearm that is used to initiate the ignition when it is hit on the primer of the cartridge. Based on its striking mechanism and position, it is divided into three types:

(i) Rimfire 


These firearms have primer on the rim of the cartridge. These are limited to low-pressure loads.

(ii) Centerfire


In this, the primer is located in the center of the cartridge case. They are used in rifles, shotguns and handguns.

(iii) Pinfire


In this type, the primer in the cartridge is ignited by striking with a small pin protruding radially from above the base of the cartridge.

6. Classification based on Activities/Purpose

(i) Adventure/Sports

Firearms that are used for only adventure and sports activities are placed in this category like airguns.

(ii) Military Use

Firearms that are exclusively used for military and armed forces are placed in this category like AK-47, M-16, etc.

Related: History and development of firearms

Popular Posts

Conducting Polymers: Definition, Examples, Properties and Applications

Crime Scene: Definition, Types and Characteristics

Green Solvents: Definition, Examples and Types of Green Solvents