Everything You Need to Know About Different types of Pistols

Humanity has worked to improve firearms’ efficiency, use, and compactness ever since someone discovered that they could shoot an object out of a rudimentary iron tube by lighting a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and excrement. The guns that we now refer to as pistols were made to be fired with one hand from the very beginning.

Early handguns were basic, single-shot, black powder-charged devices that were probably even more annoying than their long-barreled equivalents. Handguns are better than ever these days, but sorting them all out can be like sipping from a fire hose. There are several varieties of pistols in the market. This is an introduction to the many types of handguns.

Types of Pistols

  • Bolt-action pistols
  • Revolvers
  • Semi-automatic pistols
  • Muzzleloading pistols
  • Break-action pistols

Understanding What Pistols Are?

Don’t worry if trying to comprehend the various kinds of pistols overwhelms you. Even experienced shooters cannot agree on the definition of a handgun! If you call a revolver a pistol, you’ll undoubtedly wake up some grumpy old man from somewhere and they’ll be happy to point out your mistake.

A handgun is defined by the ATF and the Gun Control Act as follows: a weapon that was designed to fire a bullet or projectile out of one or more barrels while being carried in one hand is referred to as a “pistol” if it possesses the following characteristics:

  • a chamber that is either a permanent part of the bore(s) or one that is integrated into it
  • a short stock that is angled toward the bore(s), and
  • extends below its line, making it easy to grasp with one hand

ATF defines a revolver as “a projectile pistol-style weapon with a breech loading chambered cylinder that is geared such that the next cartridge aligns with the barrel for discharge when the trigger is pulled or the hammer is cocked.” Handguns are not included in this definition.

Various Sizes of Pistol

Size is a key factor that separates the different classes and varieties of pistols. Certain handguns are little devices that fit into pockets like a thin wallet or attach to belt buckles, while other handguns are hand cannons with a firing mechanism.50-caliber projectiles. From smallest to largest, these size groups generally correspond to the majority of pistols:

  • Pocket pistols are small enough to fit comfortably in a pocket
  • Micro-compact handguns, which fit in some pockets but are meant to be concealed well in a holster
  • Compact and sub-compact handguns that fit into small spaces and can be hidden
  • Full-size handguns are “normal” size handguns intended for competition, duty, non-concealed carry, and leisure shooting.

What are Semi-Automatic Pistols?

The semi-automatic handgun is without a doubt the most often used style nowadays. With thousands of models and variations, this area is always growing. When a semi-automatic pistol is fired, the spent cartridge case is automatically ejected, an unfired cartridge is loaded into the chamber, and the pistol is prepared for another pull of the trigger.

Each shot must be pulled from the trigger; however, there is no need to manually cock the rifle in between shots. The majority of semi-automatic handguns have a detachable magazine that is placed inside the grip of the weapon. As each shot is fired, a spring presses the cartridges to the top of the magazine, where they are taken out and loaded one at a time.

One of the broadest categories of handguns are semi-automatics, which fall into several main groups. However, the majority of semi-auto handguns are blowback operated, which means that the cartridge’s recoil powers the action. A few gas-operated semi-automatic handguns exist, such as the recently released Smith & Wesson model.22 magnums that cycle the action using the gas pressure from the spent cartridge are rare.

Material and Style

One important subclassification of these handguns is based on the material and design of the frame. Steel was the only material used for pistol frames when semi-auto pistols were initially created and for many years thereafter. Since Glock invented the technology in the 1980s, polymer-framed handguns have become more and more common.

Today’s polymer-framed handguns are lighter, less expensive to manufacture, and have a larger capacity for ammunition than steel-framed handguns, all while maintaining the same level of dependability and durability.

Although polymer-framed handguns are less expensive, steel- and alloy-framed handguns are still rather common. Metal-framed handguns, such as the 1911, are here to stay, and manufacturers such as Sig Sauer are already providing metal frames for their modern handguns.

Pistols with Hammer and Striker Fires

The use of striker- or hammer-fired ignition systems is another important distinction in the semi-auto pistol class. Since ancient times, spring-loaded hammers have been employed to light flint into a reservoir of fine-grain black powder, creating the first hammer-fired handguns.

Similar hammer designs have been employed to strike the primer (or firing pin) in metallic cartridges, igniting the cartridge. Hammers were used in almost every early semi-auto pistol, and many still are. The Browning Hi-Power and 1911 are two superb models of semi-automatic handguns with a hammer.


The majority of semi-auto handguns with polymer frames are striker-fired, meaning that the primer is struck by a spring-loaded striker as opposed to a floating firing pin. Striker assemblies are generally smaller and less noticeable than hammers, yet some handguns, such as the Ruger LCP Max, Ruger Mark 4, and Sig P322, have a hidden hammer assembly.


Revolvers are one of the most widely used and enduring varieties of handguns, even though they are not considered pistols according to the law. Before metallic cartridges, one of the biggest advances in repeating gun technology was actually the development of the revolver.

Revolvers have left a legacy of more than 150 years of survival and relevance. A revolver’s single barrel and spinning cylinder with separate chambers are its distinguishing features. Every chamber accommodates a cartridge, which, upon firing when the chamber aligns with the barrel, propels the bullet through the barrel and out of the muzzle. The cylinder still contains the empty casing. Rather than using metallic cartridges, early black powder revolvers included powder plus a bullet in each chamber.

Double-Action vs. Single-Action Revolvers

The majority of revolvers are hammer-fired, and the primary distinction between them is whether they operate in single or double action.

Single-Action Handgun

The earliest revolvers were single-action models, which needed the shooter to manually cock the hammer by pulling it to the rear before firing a shot. Pulling the hammer back charges the hammer spring and drives the hammer forward in addition to turning the cylinder and aligning a new chamber and cartridge with the bore.

Pulling the trigger causes the revolver to discharge, which drops the hammer. For many years, single action revolvers were the best available; well-known examples included the Colt Peacemaker.


Double-Action Revolvers

The majority of modern revolvers have twin actions. This implies that in addition to being able to be manually cocked and fired, just like single-action revolvers, they may also be repeatedly fired by just pulling the trigger.

When a revolver is in double-action mode, pulling the trigger causes the hammer to cock, twist the cylinder, snap forward, and fire the cartridge. You just need to squeeze the trigger one more time to fire.

Certain deep concealment double action revolvers are limited to double action use and lack an exposed hammer. Double action revolvers can discharge more quickly, but because of the longer pull and heavier trigger, you will get better accuracy if you manually cock the hammer and shoot the revolver like a single action.

Single-Action Handgun

Single-shot muzzleloaders were the original type of handguns. Single-shot and other low-capacity handguns are still common today. Modern break-action and single-shot handguns are mostly employed for hunting and some forms of self-defense, however muzzleloader pistols and do-it-yourself kits are still available. Here’s a closer look at the different designs.

Top-Breaking and Bolt-Action Single Shots

One of the most popular types of single-shot hunting handguns are break-action pistols that open from the top (many Derringers open from the bottom). One of the best examples of these handguns is the Thompson Center Contender, which had interchangeable barrels and was frequently used for big game hunting with rifle rounds chambered.

Bolt action pistols are other single-shot handguns that are chambered in high-power cartridges. These are frequently used with a bipod and include a short barrel and fore-end, as well as a pistol grip, but they do not have a stock.

Although they have never accounted for much of the pistol market, serious handgun hunters find great satisfaction in them. The Remington XP100 is among the most well-known variants, although the Nosler M48 is a more modern model.


The early pocket handguns were called derringers. Derringers were first introduced as cap-lock muzzleloading handguns, and then came the more well-known break-action model. These were the smallest cannons available, and occasionally they had two or more barrels. The fact that they are pistols rather than revolvers or semi-autos makes them special.


Derringers in their most popular forms are hammer-operated, and when they have multiple barrels, they function as single-action devices. This implies that before every shot, you must manually cock the hammer. However, there are also some instances of Derringers in the double-action style.

Derringers are still available today, ranging in calibers from.22 lr to.45/70, though the bigger chamberings can make them difficult to use. Folding into the form and size of a thin wallet, tiny rimfire derringers like the Trail Blazer Lifecard are perfect for carrying in your pocket. One variant even works with a suppressor.

Pistol Cartridges

It is also possible to categorize each of the several pistol varieties by ammunition. These days, a huge range of cartridges, from rimfire.17 and.22 to hunting rifle.30/30 Winchester or the new.360 Buckhammer, are chambered for pistols and revolvers.

Cartridges for pistols typically have a straight wall, although the majority of semi-automatic handguns employ rimless cartridges. Cartridges having a projecting rim are commonly used in revolvers. The majority of pistol rounds discharge their bullets at velocities ranging from 800 to 1,600 feet per second—much slower than the majority of contemporary hunting rifle ammunition—because handgun barrels and cartridges are often shorter.

These are a few of the most widely used and well-liked handgun cartridges:

  • 22 Long Rifle
  • 380 Automatic
  • 9mm Luger
  • 10mm Automatic
  • 45 ACP
  • 38 Special
  • 357 Magnum

How to Pick the Right Pistol

Several considerations should be taken into account when buying and searching through the different varieties of handguns and pistols to locate the right one for you.

  • Why is there a pistol?
  • What calibre and size will be most effective?
  • Which kind of handgun is the most convenient for me to carry and shoot?
  • How much money do you have?

It will be a lot simpler to locate the perfect pistol if you can respond to these inquiries. Having the chance to practice shooting various handguns in various styles and calibers will aid in focusing your search. There are several high-quality handguns and revolvers available, so you might not want to use the one that suits someone else best.

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