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Firearm Types and Characteristics

by David Freestone

In this issue we will discuss generic firearm types and their characteristics. This will lay the groundwork for future reviews and discussions of specific firearm brands and models.


Single shot: A rifle that requires reloading after each shot and only has the capacity for one cartridge at a time. Typical single shot rifles are stalking rifles, Ruger #1’’s, antique or reproductions like trap door Springfields and Sharps.(Quigley rifle)

Repeater: A rifle that has a magazine whether internal or external that holds multiple rounds and allows rapid fire without reload, until the magazine is emptied. This type of rifle is typically a bolt action, lever action, or semi or fully automatic. Again typical types are Winchester model 70 or 94, Remington Model 700, or Marlin Model 95. In the semi auto field there are the M1 Garand of WW2 fame, numerous semi auto including the AR 15 (modern sporting rifle) and its military cousin the fully automatic M16 and A4. Note : the M1 Grand is one of the few firearms whose magazine can legitimately be called a “clip” rather than magazine due to its unusual design.


Single Action: A handgun requiring manual cocking prior to firing each round.

Some examples would be the Colt Single Action Army, Ruger Black or Red Hawks. In semi auto Colt or other makes of the model 1911(Which has to be cocked before the initial shot, subsequent shots will be cocked by the slide recoiling). As a rule the trigger pull on a good single action is superior to double action handguns.

Double Action: A handgun that can be fired by simply pulling the trigger which cocks the gun through the trigger mechanism. Typically a double action handgun can be fired in either double action, or single action mode. Some examples would be Sig P229, Beretta 92 semi auto as well as Colt, Smith and Wesson, and Taurus revolvers. Double action handguns typically have long and stiff trigger pull.

Double Action Only: This handgun can only be fired by actuating the trigger in double action mode. This group would include striker fire handguns and some snub nosed revolvers that have covered or bobbed hammers.

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