Stephenson House

Understanding The Differences Between Handguns, Shotguns, and Rifles

In a world where the need for self-defense is increasing, more and more gun owners are looking into new avenues of life-saving weapons. Whether you are looking to add a new handgun to your collection, or to load up on shotguns and rifles for hunting season, it can be difficult to know where to begin. 

The last thing you want to worry about is how to figure out which gun is best.  This guide will help you better understand and differentiate between handguns, shotguns, and rifles so that when you go into the store looking for a weapon, you’ll be able to make an educated decision based on what you need the gun for.


Handguns, sometimes called pistols or handguns, are weapons designed to be handheld, in either one or both hands. They have been in use since at least the 15th century when they spread throughout Asia and Europe. Some handgun experts and dictionaries make a technical distinction that considers handguns proper to be designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand (or both hands in the case of aimed two-handed firing), while other handheld firearms (which include various types of shotguns and rifles) are called long guns. They share many characteristics with long guns, including uses, storage, and maintenance requirements.

There are many types of handguns, but the three common types of handguns are pistols, revolvers, and derringers. There are more than a dozen manufacturers and hundreds of different makes and models that are used for personal protection, law enforcement, and sporting purposes.


They were born in the field and found their way into the hands of hunters. During the 1800s, smooth bore muzzle loading shotguns became the mainstay weapons for hunters and remained so for nearly 100 years. As technology advanced, gun manufacturers produced side-by-side and over/under firearms for bird hunting that featured Damascus or forged steel barrels which were far more accurate than a smoothbore barrel. Invented in the 1800s, shotgun shells came in three sizes: small, medium, and large in descending order by diameter.

Unlike a breech-loading firearm, which uses shells containing gunpowder and a bullet (or shot), a modern shotgun shell contains either multiple pellets known as a shot or a single slug, known as a projectile. The shot is fired from a smoothbore barrel, while the slug is fired from a rifled barrel.


One of the most popular rifles in the industry, the Model 700 is sleek and powerful, accurate and reliable. It’s a bolt-action centerfire rifle that feeds from a box magazine, making it perfect for hunting, target shooting, and tactical situations where the shooter needs maximum firepower and maneuverability. From backcountry stalking to big-game hunting, it has the power to consistently drop your prey with one shot. It features a button-rifled barrel with a recessed crown, steel selected to withstand high-pressure cartridges and still give rapid follow-up shots, hinged floorplate magazine that provides quick reloading without losing sight picture.

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