Note: This page is under construction. As I am able I'll be adding more to it. If you have any questions, please contact me! Thanks for your patience.

A Handy Guide to Handguns

One of the more popular options for firearms today, pistols and revolvers are what makes up the overwhelming majority of the category of "handguns". 

Semi-Automatic Pistols

A pistol is a magazine-fed or semi-automatic firearm that is typically sized to be able to be held in one hand. I am not going to be able to capture the historical developments in pistols with any level of thoroughness on this page, so I'll refer any context-seeking individuals to the National Firearms Museum's A Brief History of Firearms. What I can do here is provide some basics on what a pistol looks like today.

Shown here are three semi-automatic, magazine-fed pistols. They look slightly different because they are each designed and used for a separate purpose. However, the anatomy looking from the outside is roughly the same. 

Each pistol has a frame with a grip used to hold the gun. The "guts" of the pistol are inside the frame, and lots of components sit on or within the frame, including: thumb safetyslide lockslidetrigger guard (often integral, or one piece, with the frame) and trigger. The barrel is either fixed (as in the Browning Buckmark shown on the left) or movable with the motion of the slide. Rear sights are typically attached to the slide and front sights are as far forward on the pistol as possible - which means either on the barrel (Browning Buckmark) or on the slide. The magazine is what holds ammunition, and it is removed from the pistol when loading it, then inserted into the frame between the grip panels to lock into position when ready to shoot. Sometimes accessories like a laser or flashlight (not shown) are included on a self-defense pistol.


The revolver is a classic. Recognizable from old Westerns and Clint Eastwood movies, it is still around almost two centuries after its invention because the revolver has a design that still works...shot after shot! It holds ammunition in a cylinder that "revolves" with each trigger pull to position a new round to be fired. The cylinder typically has between 5 and 10 holes ("chambers") in it.

Some revolvers, like the one pictured, have hammers to revolve the cylinder (the first action of firing) and some have only a trigger to revolve the cylinder and fire the gun (the second action of firing) and some have both. If the hammer is the only way to revolve the cylinder, that revolver is called a single action revolver. If the hammer is there, but you could also use the trigger to revolve the cylinder then that revolver is called a double action revolver. And some revolvers have no exposed hammer - those are called double action only. The hammer and trigger are tied together in a mechanical system that includes a spring (not seen) that is inside the grips

The rear sight is typically on the frame, and the front sight is typically on the barrel. Some revolvers, like the hunting gun shown in the photo, also have a scope on it, attached with scope rings which are mounted in special cuts on the frame using screws that come with the scope rings. 

To load the revolver, the cylinder release is pressed and the cylinder is pivoted out of the frame using the crane. If there is spent (used) brass in the cylinder, you can use the ejector rod to push the brass back out of the cylinder. You'll load a round into each hole, or use a speed loader or moon clip. Revolvers have typically come in revolver-specific calibers of ammunition, including .38 special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Long Colt. However with the dawn of moon clips many calibers of semi-automatic rimmed ammunition, like 9mm and .45 ACP, have found their way into modern revolvers.