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Coastal 101 | Safety | Outdoors

Coastal 101: Get to Know the Parts of a Gun

October 11, 2018

A lot of folks know and understand guns. Those people include hunters, recreational shooters, and a lot more. If you’re new to guns, or just looking for a refresher on the parts of handguns, rifles, and shotguns, this quick 101 is for you. Plus, we’ll cover some of the basic safety tips for owning and using a gun.

Information for Beginners

For today’s Coastal 101, we’ll be covering the very basic parts of a pistol, rifle, and shotgun. As always, it’s important to understand the gun laws in Oregon and Washington. You’ll find information for your state online. That includes hunter safety courses in Oregon and Washington. Need a gun safe? Check out How to Pick the Perfect Gun Safe for more.

Handguns (pistols)

Today’s handguns have four basic parts, including the action, frame, clip or cylinder, and barrel.

The Action contains the parts that fire the cartridges. This includes the trigger.

The Frame is the metal housing that includes the grip or handle of the gun. Everything is attached to or inside the frame.

The Barrel is the metal tube that protrudes from the frame. This is where the bullet travels as it leaves the handgun.

Clips and Cylinders are not interchangeable. If you are using a revolver instead of a repeating handgun, your gun will have a cylinder that holds the ammunition. Repeating handguns use a clip or magazine that fits firmly into the grip.

Other basic parts of a handgun include the rear and front sights, magazine release, slide stop, muzzle, trigger, and trigger guard.


The basic parts of a rifle include the action, stock, and barrel.

The Action loads the ammunition, fires, and unloads spent cartridges. Common rifle actions include bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, semi-automatic action, and break action.

The Stock is the part of the rifle you hold and use to aim the firearm.

The Barrel is the long, metal tube that protrudes outward. This is where the bullet travels as it leaves the handgun.

Other parts of a rifle include the receiver, bolt, front and rear sights, trigger, trigger guard, magazine, and safety.


The basic parts of a shotgun can be broken down into the stock, action, and barrel.

The Stock is the part of the shotgun you hold as well as the part that rests against your shoulder.

The Action is the part of the gun that loads, fires, and discards the spent shotgun shells. Types of shotgun actions include bolt-action, pump-action, semi-automatic action, and break action. The shotgun you hear most often in movies and on television is the infamous pump-action.

The Barrel is the part of the shotgun that protrudes from the gun. This is the tube the pellets travel down as they leave the gun.

Other parts of a shotgun include the receiver, breech bolt, ejection port, muzzle, magazine cap, trigger guard, and safety mechanism.

Get to Know the 5 Rules of Gun Safety

Working with longtime law enforcement professional and the Coastal loss prevention and firearm regulatory compliance expert, Ed Boyd, we’ve compiled the 5 Rules of Gun Safety.

Rule #1 – All guns are Always loaded – Always. This simply means you must always treat every gun as if it’s loaded. Always assume that every gun you come into contact with is loaded until you have physically verified it for yourself. Don’t ever rely on anyone’s word for it. When you hold a gun in your hand, you are responsible for it and anything that occurs while in your possession. If you don’t know how a gun works, leave it alone and find a knowledgeable person to show you.

Rule #2 – Never point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to shoot – Ever. You must always be aware of where your gun is pointed at all times. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. This is the rule that saves lives. You MUST exercise due caution and diligence when handling a firearm.

Rule #3 – Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard. Always keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until your sights are on target, and you have made the conscious decision to shoot. If you have your finger on the trigger and you are startled in some way, your brain will react with a primitive response that will tighten every muscle in the body, including the trigger finger.

Rule #4 – Be sure of your target and what’s beyond and around it. The hand that holds the gun is responsible for whatever is done by that gun. If you fire a gun, you are responsible – no matter where it lands or what it hits. You must know where your shot will go when you fire it. You must know what it might hit if you miss your intended target. And you must know what it can go through and still have enough energy/power to kill or hurt.

Rule #5 – Always lock up your guns. Whether you use a trigger lock, handgun safe or a cabinet safe, always keep your firearms locked. As a responsible gun owner, you know that your gun is always loaded (refer to Rule #1), but not everyone is aware of these rules. Children are naturally curious and there’s always a chance someone could find your firearms. Keep them locked and away – it’s smart, and it’s easy.

Learn More at Coastal

Our firearm specialists will answer all of your questions, help you understand the basics of gun ownership, as well as how to pick out the right gun and gun safe. Stop by your Northwest owned and operated Coastal where you’ll find gun-smart folks, as well as ammunition, ear protection, and cleaning kits.