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Popular Hand Guns Types (For Self Defense)

The first firearm emerged around 1000 AD in modern day China. From that time to modern age, the techniques and development of these firearms progressed impressively.

Once there was a time when gun was the most common and generic word for most of the projectile firearms in the world.

And now the world, its technology and weapons, has changed. There are different types of guns including rifles and other weapons that could be used for self defense.

Hand guns are the most prestigious guns as more than 72% firearm owners in the United States own a hand gun.

Hand Guns are that type of gun that can be fired by a person by using his single or both hands. In this way these hand guns are different from other gun types such as rifles and short-guns.

But hand guns in itself is a broad category and there are plenty of hand guns types for self defense. These different hand guns types vary from each other in one way or the other.

If you want to become a professional shooter or shooting is your hobby then you must recognise different hand guns types you are handling.

If you are new in the weapon and shooting field and want to purchases a hand gun for your self defense then we are here to clear your ideas about different hand guns types.

In this article, we will inform you about different hand guns types in the market and then it will be clear to you why there are plenty of hand guns types.

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What are the Different Hand Guns Types?

While thinking about having some weapon for self defense then hand guns is the first item that come into your mind. Who would think of carrying a rifle all the time with him for self defense.

Hand guns can be divided into different categories on the basis of their cycle of operation, action type, and size.

Moreover, the physical features of hand guns, the number of their chambers and how to access them can help a person to differentiate between different hand guns types.

In this way there are three different criteria to identify hand guns types. Now we will discuss each way to differentiate hand guns and their further types.

Hand Guns Types on the Basis of Cycle of Operation:

The first yardstick to identify hand guns types is the cycle in which they operate and function.

On the basis of this criterion, there are three different hand guns types;

  1. Break action Pistols
  2. Revolvers
  3. Automatic reloaders

Break action pistols:

hand guns types

Break action pistol is the first and one of the oldest hand guns types. The first break action pistol was patented in France in 1858.

The break action pistols hinge around a single end to uncover the chambers, so they are also known as hinge action pistols.

These break action pistols are also called single-shot firearms as they can hold only a single round of ammunition. They must be reloaded manually after every shot.

Pros & Cons:

There are many advantages to using a break action hand gun. For instance, while other hand guns types are designed for right-handed shooters, break action pistols can be effectively used to fire from either hand.

But break action hand guns or pistols are designed only for non-repeating shots. To get multiple shots at a time you have to check on other options.


popular hand guns types

Contrary to break action pistols, revolvers have a cylinder containing multiple chambers, usually six chambers, and can be used for repeating firearms.

These hand gun types are also known as wheel guns as they have revolving chambers. Because of their designs, revolvers are used to fire successive shots without opening the action.

In older versions of revolver, each chamber had to be unloaded and then reloaded individually. For that purpose, there was a loading port in older models of these hand guns types.

But in modern revolvers, the complete wheel swings out and all the chambers can eject live rounds while reloading.

Pros & Cons:

Due to their simplicity of use and mechanical reliability, revolvers are considered a better choice as compared to break action pistols.

As most of the revolvers are double action, they are inherently safe from most of the negligence. We will discuss later in this article the difference between single action and double action hand guns types.

But these hand guns types have a very limited capacity. A typical revolver can only hold 5 to 8 rounds of ammunition and that is not good for self defense scenarios.

Best Models:

Following examples are some of the best models of modern revolvers;

  • Colt Single Action Army
  • Colt 1851 Navy Revolver
  • Smith & Wesson Model 19
  • Ruger LCR
  • Colt King Cobra

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Automatic reloaders:

popular hand guns types

Unlike the revolvers, which have multiple chambers and each host a single round, automatic reloaders have a single chamber that ejects spent castings with each round fired.

These hand guns types are also known as automatics but that doesn’t mean that they fire multiple bullets with a single pull of trigger.

Automatic reloaders have a single chamber and barrel, and extra rounds of bullets are stored in an attached magazine.

During the cycle of operation, bullets are loaded from that magazine in a row into the chamber to be fired.

Pros & Cons:

One of the best advantages of these automatic reloaders over the revolvers is their magazine’s capacity.

A conventional revolver can hold only six rounds of bullets in its cylinder, on the other hand, a common automatic reloader has a capacity to hold 7 to 15 rounds.

But to their simplicity, revolvers are easy to use and easy to maintain as compared to these hand guns types and a appears to be a perfect weapon to use for self defense.

Best Models:

Some of the best automatic reloaders are;

  • Glock 19
  • SIG Sauer P365
  • Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm
  • KahrCM9
  • Walther PPK

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Hand Guns Types on the Basis of Trigger Action:

Hand guns can be separated into different categories on the basis of trigger action. In the weapon field, an action is the name of the functional mechanism that allows the ammunition load to work.

The action process of firing bullets can be ignited in one or two steps. So, there are two hand guns types on the basis of trigger action.

  1. Single action hand guns
  2. Double action hand guns

Single action hand guns:

popular hand guns types

In single action hand guns, if someone pulls the trigger, it only performs one function. So, if you pull the trigger of single action hand guns types, the hammer moves and fires the gun.

In this way, before each shot the hammer must be chocked by the shooter. And if the hammer is not chocked, pulling the trigger will perform no function.

In single action hand guns types, chocking the hammer before every shot is essential. As it escorts the new bullet into alignment with the barrel.

Before the mid-19th century all the triggers were single action. So, the term single action was not used, until the development of double action hand guns.

Pros & Cons:

As in single action hand guns, pulling the trigger performs only function, it is smoother and allows more accurate shooting as compared to double action revolvers.

According to some experts, single action hand guns types are not that much safer as compared to double action ones.

Best Models:

Some of the best single action hand guns are

  • Beaumont-Adams revolver
  • Colt Buntine
  • Colt Army Model 1860
  • Nagant M1895
  • Ultimate 500

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Double action hand guns:

popular hand guns types

In double action hand guns types, pulling the trigger performs two functions. First it automatically chocks the hammer and prepares the next round for shot and then fires the hand gun.

In case of double action hand guns, a shooter doesn’t need to chock the hammer manually each time before every shot, as it is done by the trigger itself.

As it performs an extra work of cocking the hammer, double action revolvers have a longer and stiffer trigger as compared to single action revolvers.

Pros & Cons:

A double action revolver can be reloaded more quickly and is also safe to use as compared to single action hand guns.

Some arguments exist that due to longer and heavier trigger pull, double action hand guns types for self defense are less accurate than single action hand guns.

Best Models:
  • Beretta PX4 Strom
  • CZ P-01
  • Canik TP9DA
  • HK P30

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Hand guns Types on the Basis of their Size:

Different hand guns can also be divided on the criterion of their sizes and these sizes decide their particular uses. These are

  1. Subcompact hand guns
  2. Compact hand guns
  3. Full-size hand guns

Subcompact hand guns:

popular hand guns types

Subcompacts are very small hand gun that is designed for concealment and carry. The capacity of these hand guns types is about 4 to 10 rounds, plus one round in the chamber.

Due to smaller barrel and low sight radius the effectiveness of these subcompact guns is lower than other hand guns types.

Pros & Cons:

People with smaller hands and many first-time shooters prefer these hand guns due to their size.

But because of their small size subcompact guns also have some cons. Sometimes its slide can hurt your hands and it is extremely uncomfortable to hold it because of its size-weight ratio.

Best Models:

Following are a few examples of subcompact hand guns;

  • SIG365
  • S&W Bodyguard
  • Beretta Tomcat

Compact hand guns:

popular hand guns types

If you want to have a hand gun with high power cartridges and more bullets rounds then compact guns must be your first choice.

Compact guns can hold up to 15 rounds. For many years, Glock 19 was the standard for compact guns.

Pros & Cons:

Compact hand guns are mostly used for concealed carry.

The hand guns types are larger than subcompact guns and are better than that in every aspect except concealability.

Best Models:

In addition to Glock 19, there are some other good models of compact hand guns such as;

  • HK USP9 Compact
  • S&W M&P Compact
  • SIG P320 Compact

Full-size hand guns:

popular hand guns types

Full-size hand guns are usually designed for maximum magazine capacity, reliability, accuracy and easy manual of arms.

Most of the full-size hand guns have a capacity of 18 to 20 rounds.

Instead of concealment and carry, law enforcement uses these hand guns types for target shooting due to their accuracy.

Pros & Cons:

These hand guns are easier to shoot well for first time shooters. In the manufacturing of full-size hand guns polymers are used, so they are still lighter than smaller hand guns.

But full-size hand guns types are not good for concealed carry. 

Best Models:

Best models of full-size hand guns are;

  • S&W M&P Full-size
  • Walther PPQ Q5 Match
  • HK VP9
  • SIG P320 Full-size

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The purpose of this introduction to different hand guns types and related concepts is just to give you a brief insight into the vast technology of hand guns. All of these weapons could be used for self defense but certainly all of them are not a good choice for you.

These hand guns are made to serve you in the best way possible. We do not want to destroy your comfort just to keep a hand gun with you. So, you should keep in mind all the aspects related to hand guns’ size, power, weight capacity and compatibility to buy a new one.

Our advice is that before buying your favorite model among these hand guns types for the first time, borrow or rent the same model with the same caliber and shoot it.

Because there are many incidents when people change their decision about buying their favorite hand gun once they learned first-hand qualities and abilities of that gun.

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