Your Guide to Guns: 10 Gun Basics Every Beginner Needs to Know


What passion do Brad Pitt and Whoopi Goldberg share?

Both of these big-name celebrities love firearms. For Brad, guns have been a part of his life since kindergarten. When he was 5 years old, his father gave him his first firearm and began instilling a deep respect for guns and gun safety.

Whoopi Goldberg didn’t start using guns until she was an adult. However now she’s a proud gun owner and member of the NRA.

Are you looking to make guns a part of your life? If so, you’ll want to make sure you understand gun basics, before you make any type of purchase.

When you understand the different types of guns, you can find the perfect one to suit your needs. Read on to find out what every beginner should know about firearms.

1. Gun Basics and Part Names

It can be tricky trying to understand all of the different parts of your gun, especially if you don’t have any shooting experience. To help break things down we made a list of the different pieces and names your gun can have.

Here’s a shortlist of gun parts and names

  • Barrel
  • Trigger
  • Magazine
  • Buttstock
  • Pistol grip
  • Safety

To truly understand gun basics, you’ll need to know the truth about what a bullet actually is. When you hear somebody use the word bullet, they’re referring to around or cartridge. The word, “bullet”, is just the slang word people use to describe the entire package.

A bullet is the part of the round, or package, that is going to go down the barrel of your gun to hit your target.

You also have the casing to help as well. The casing on the round or cartridge will usually be steel, plastic or brass.

It’s not uncommon for people to refer to the casing as the brass. Inside of the casing, you’ll find the gun powder.

Next, there is the primer, and you’ll find it on the rear of the casing. When the primer hits the casing, it sparks the gun powder and ignites it.

2. Barrels vs Buttstocks

 The barrel is what you’re bullet will travel through. If you have a long barrel, your bullet will be able to travel faster. Longer barrels also help bullets come out more stable.

The trigger is the part you pull to shoot your gun. Next, you have the magazine.

It’s a common mistake for people to refer to the magazine as the clip. However, a magazine is not a clip, and it doesn’t do any clipping. Depending on your gun type, the magazine can fit inside the gun or it can attach to the outside of your firearm.

The buttstock or stock is a part of rifles and shotguns. The stock is the part that you will put up against your shoulder when you’re getting ready to fire. If you’re using a pistol, then you will have a pistol grip.

Your grip will be the area that you hold in the palm of your hand. Certain rifles and shotguns also have pistol grips as well as buttstocks.

Finally, you have the safety. Depending on the type of gun you have your safety can be in several different places. The purpose of the safety is to block the gun from firing using a mechanical lever.

3. Different Gun Types

As you continue learning about gun basics, you’ll begin coming across a slew of designs and models.

Here are a few of the different types of guns you can buy

  • Pistol
  • Shotgun
  • Rifle

Each gun will use its specific type of bullets. For example, if you can’t use ammunition for a pistol and put into a shotgun or vice versa.

If you’re thinking about getting a pistol or a handgun, it’s probably because you want something lightweight. Police officers enjoy being able to use pistols because they can easily carry them on their hips.

However, since your pistol or handgun will be small and light, the barrel will also be shorter. A shorter barrel means less powerful bullets. Since your bullets will be less powerful, the pistol is only effective if you’re at close range. If you plan on shooting over long distances, you should look into getting a shotgun or rifle.

4. Firing Your Gun

No matter what type of gun you buy, they all operate in a similar way. Inside of your gun is a small metal piece. When you shoot your gun, you cause a small piece of metal to strike the back of your round. 

When the metal piece hits the back of the round it hits directly on the primer. A spark forms inside the casing, which is also where the gunpowder stays.

Miniature Explosions

Once the spark is present it creates an explosion from the gunpowder. Explosions naturally want to grow and get bigger. However, your explosion won’t be able to expand, since it’s stuck inside the casing.

Pushing against the back of the bullet, the explosion will force it to come apart from the casing. Next, the bullet launches down the barrel of your gun, and the casing stays behind.

Practically every gun uses the same operating principle. The main differences between guns are how you load the ammunition into the barrel and what type of ammunition you use.

5. Deciphering Gun Labels

As you get ready to buy your first gun, you’ll start to notice different labels. Semi-automatic, single action, and fully automatic, are all labels that refer to how the gun performs.

If you hear someone use the term semi-automatic or full auto, they’re talking about how the gun works by performing a full cycle. A cycle is an entire process that begins with loading around, firing it, and removing the old casing.

6. Single Action Shotgun

If you plan on firing your gun, manually reloading it, firing it, and having to reload it again, you’re looking at getting a single action shotgun. Single action shotguns require you to manually load the round, cocked the gun, fire, and repeat. Once you fire the gun, it’s up to you to reset the entire process.

7. Semi-Automatic Guns

If you get a semi-automatic, the gun will help you stay ready. When you pull the trigger on a semi-automatic, the gun will fire, cycle itself, and prepare to fire the next time you’re ready to pull the trigger.

Fully automatic guns are very similar to semi-automatic guns. Each gun can fire multiple rounds for each cycle.

8. Shotgun Ammunition

Ammunition for a shotgun is going to be different than the ammunition used for any other gun. A shotgun fires a bunch of tiny projectiles, instead of one bullet.

You may have heard the phrase buckshot, to refer to how shotgun ammunition works. Hunters love using shotguns for birds because the buckshot spreads out, and can hit a larger target.

The correct term for shotgun ammunition is a shell or shotshell. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a shell or shotshell, the principles are the same. You’ll have a basic casing, a primer, gunpowder, and the projectiles that will launch from your barrel.

9. All About AR 15s

When you hear people talking about assault rifles or assault weapons, they’re usually referring to AR 15’s and AK-47s. However, an AR 15 isn’t an assault rifle, and the AR doesn’t stand for “assault rifle”.

Instead, the letters A R represent the company, ArmaLite rifle. This was the very first company to make this type of gun. Over the years, AR 15’s have become some of the most popular rifle designs on the market.

Many companies make their own versions of the AR 15 design. The parts are usually entered exchangeable with other companies, like Strike Industries. So if you buy an AR 15 part from one company, chances are it’ll work well with an air 15 part from a different company. 

10. Calibers and Types of Ammunition

The word caliber means the size of the round. Caliber numbers describe the widest part of the bullet, as well as the length of the casing. It can be confusing finding the right caliber at the beginning since different companies use different types of measurements.

While some calibers are in millimeters, others aren’t. Sometimes American caliber is Imperial.

Over time you’ll be able to understand how imperial measurements equate with metric measurements. You can also use online tools to do the conversions for you.

While the differences in caliber sizes may seem small and unimportant, they matter very much. Remember, your gun uses exploding parts. Even if your caliber is only off by a fraction of a millimeter, disastrous things can happen.

Love Your Firearm

Now you know the gun basics every beginner should be aware of. Understanding the different terms and labels, as well as how your gun operates, will help you truly enjoy your firearm.

If you’re looking for more ways to become comfortable with your new gun or find the right gun to buy, we’d love to help. Go ahead and check out the rest of her articles on the site.

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Your Guide to Guns: 10 Gun Basics Every Beginner Needs to Know