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 What are the two basic styles of firearm actions?

What are the two basic styles of firearm actions?

Posted by DDM Support on Jan 3rd 2024

Firearm actions fundamentally come in two styles - single action and double action. A single action firearm is one in which the trigger has a sole function, that is, to cock the hammer. On the other hand, a double action firearm allows the trigger to perform dual tasks - both cocking the hammer and releasing it to fire the weapon.

What Is a Firearm Action?

A firearm is a weapon engineered to propel a projectile at high speed, powered by the force of an explosive charge.

Although firearms vary in design and size, they all share one common feature: the action. The action is the mechanism responsible for loading, cocking, and discharging the weapon.

This component not only secures the bullet but also generates the necessary energy to launch it.

Various types of actions exist, but they fundamentally fall into two categories: single-action and double-action.

Moreover, there are semiautomatic and fully automatic firearms. Semiautomatic firearms typically operate on a single action: with each trigger pull, a new round is loaded into the chamber.

In contrast, fully automatic firearms execute multiple actions: they load a new round and discharge it with each trigger pull.

The kind of action a firearm has influences its firing speed and the frequency at which it needs reloading.

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What Are Single Action Firearms?

A single-action firearm is a type of weapon that requires the user to manually cock the hammer before every shot. On the other hand, a double-action firearm automatically cocks the hammer when the trigger is pulled. Each style has its unique set of pros and cons.


Single-action firearms are usually compact and lightweight, making them convenient for carrying and concealing. Their shorter overall length can also serve as an advantage in close combat situations. Additionally, single-action firearms are generally more cost-effective.


The primary drawback of single-action weapons is their challenging nature when it comes to rapid, successive firing. The necessity to manually cock the hammer between each shot can affect the accuracy of the shots.

Examples of Single Action Firearms

Single-action firearms are often associated with older models, and there are several renowned instances of this type of weapon. The Colt revolver is a notable single-action firearm, famously used by figures such as Wyatt Earp and Annie Oakley. These guns were favored for their streamlined design and swift firing capabilities.

The Winchester rifle is another classic example of a single-action firearm. It was widely used by pioneers in the American West for its long-range precision and dependability under severe conditions.

In the present day, single-action firearms continue to be sought after by collectors and sharpshooters. While they may not be as prevalent as double-action firearms, these weapons still maintain relevance in today's world.

What Are Double-Action Firearms?

Double-action firearms are weapons that have the capability to both cock and fire the hammer with a single pull of the trigger. This eliminates the need for manually cocking the weapon between each shot, allowing for rapid, successive firing.


Double-action firearms come with various benefits, including convenience and safety. They eliminate the need for the user to cock the hammer before each shot, which facilitates faster firing. Moreover, their longer overall length can provide the user with a clearer sight picture and enhanced control over the weapon.


On the other hand, double-action firearms are generally bulkier and heavier compared to single-action weapons. This increases the difficulty in concealing them due to their larger size and weight.

Examples of Double-Action Firearms

Here are a few examples of double-action firearms:

  • The Smith & Wesson Model 10 Revolver
  • The Ruger LCR Revolver
  • The Beretta 92FS Pistol

What are some different types of repeating action Firearms

Having covered the fundamentals of single-shot and repeating firearms, let's now explore the various kinds of repeating action firearms.


The most common type of bolt-action firearm is the rifle. Bolt-action rifles are typically more accurate than semi-automatic rifles because the user has to take their time and carefully aim each shot.

To fire a bolt-action rifle, the user must first manually cock the gun by pulling back and then releasing the bolt. This action chamber a round and makes the gun ready to fire. The user then aims and fires the gun.

Once the gun is fired, the user must manually operate the bolt again in order to eject the spent cartridge and chamber a new round.


Lever-action firearms share similarities with bolt-action firearms, primarily in their superior accuracy over semi-automatic weapons. This is because the user must take time to carefully aim each shot.

To use a lever-action firearm, the user first needs to manually cock the weapon by pulling back and then releasing the lever. This action chambers a round and prepares the gun to fire. The user then takes aim and fires the weapon.

Post firing, the user has to manually manipulate the lever once more to eject the used cartridge and load a new round into the chamber.


Pump-action firearms, much like bolt-action and lever-action firearms, tend to be more accurate than semi-automatic firearms. This is attributed to the user needing to patiently aim each shot.

To discharge a pump-action firearm, the user must first manually cock the gun by pulling back and subsequently releasing the pump. This sequence chambers a round, preparing the gun for firing. The user then aligns and fires the weapon.

After the weapon has been fired, the user is required to manually work the pump once more to expel the spent cartridge and load a new round into the chamber.

Revolver action

Revolvers feature a rotating cylinder that automatically reloads when the hammer is drawn back. This mechanism is commonly found in iconic revolvers like the original Colts and the Glock .38.


Autoloading firearms are weapons that automatically reload after each shot. With every pull of the trigger, the autoloading mechanism chambers a new round of ammunition, ready for discharge. These guns are often referred to as semi-automatic or automatic weapons.

Autoloading mechanisms feature in a wide array of firearms, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, and various non-hunting weapons. The first autoloading firearm was patented by Hiram Maxim in 1885. His design leveraged the recoil of the gun to power the mechanism that would eject the used cartridge and load a fresh one.

This system is still widely implemented in many firearms today. Over time, numerous designs and variations of autoloading mechanisms have been developed, but they all serve the fundamental purpose of automatically reloading the gun after each shot.

Autoloading firearms have become some of the most sought-after types of guns globally, with applications ranging from hunting and self-defense to target shooting and plinking. Regardless of whether you're a novice gun owner or an experienced marksman, there's an autoloading firearm that will suit your needs perfectly.

Multiple-barrel repeaters

A multiple-barrel repeater gun is a category of repeating firearm distinguished by its multiple barrels. Instead of using a mechanism to load a new round after each shot, the additional round is stored in an extra barrel integrated into the gun itself.

Firearms such as double-barreled rifles, shotguns, derringers, and others with multiple barrels fall under the category of multiple-barrel repeaters. These guns are distinctive as they permit firing more than one round without the need for reloading.

These firearms prove advantageous in scenarios where rapid firing of multiple rounds is necessary, like self-defense or target shooting. Their unique design also makes multiple-barrel repeaters a favorite among collectors.


Every firearm features some form of sight system to assist the user in aiming. Iron sights are the most frequently encountered type.

Iron sights generally comprise a front and a rear sight. The front sight, commonly a post or bead, is positioned at the barrel's end. On the other hand, the rear sight, typically a notch or aperture, is situated on the receiver (the gun's rear portion).

When peering through the rear sight, the user should align the front sight with their target to ensure accurate aim.

Some firearms are also equipped with optical sights, which utilize lenses and mirrors to enlarge the target. These sights are predominantly found on rifles and prove beneficial for long-distance shooting.

What’s the Most Basic Firearm Action?

The simplest type of firearm action is the single action. In this system, the user must manually cock the hammer before each shot, which can be accomplished by pulling back the hammer using the thumb or forefinger.

Single action is commonly associated with revolvers, but it's also present in some larger firearms like rifles. Although it might not be as swift or convenient as other action types, its simplicity makes it ideal for firearms intended for slow and deliberate firing.

Owing to these characteristics, single-action firearms are often favored by beginners or those seeking a reliable and straightforward firearm. Beyond this, firearm actions progress to more sophisticated systems such as double-action and multiple-action.

What Is the Most Common Basic Firearm Action?

Most contemporary handguns fall into the double-action category, largely due to their faster firing rate. But why are double-action guns more prevalent?

There are several reasons. Firstly, double-action firearms tend to be more dependable due to fewer moving parts that could potentially fail or jam. Secondly, these guns are typically easier to fire accurately because they have a shorter, smoother trigger pull.

Given these benefits (among others), double-action guns are often the go-to choice for law enforcement and civilian usage.

Single Action Vs Double Action: Which Is Better?

Some marksmen favor single-action firearms for their precision and accuracy, while others appreciate the speed and fluidity of double-action guns. Ultimately, the selection of an action type boils down to individual preference.

If I had to choose one, my preference would lean towards double-action firearms. Here's why double-action is superior:

  1. Widespread popularity
  2. Greater availability

What Are Other Firearm Actions?

In the realm of firearms, numerous terms are used. Here are some additional firearm actions and their definitions:

1. Break Action

2. Bolt Action

3. Pump Action

What Is Break Action in Firearms?

For instance, the term 'break action' might be unfamiliar to some. Break action refers to a specific type of firearm in which the barrels are connected to the forward part of the receiver via a hinge, and the breechblock is constructed in two parts (usually locking) that pivot on pins at the back of the receiver.

The breechblock operates as both the cylinder and bolt. In most scenarios, when the firearm is 'broken open' for loading, an extractor removes the used cartridges from the breechblock’s chambers, allowing new ones to be placed.

Given its status as one of the earliest and simplest firearm designs, the break action has been utilized for a broad range of applications. Both rifles and shotguns are available in break-action designs.

What Is a Bolt Action Firearm?

A bolt-action firearm refers to a type of weapon that utilizes a revolving bolt to load rounds. While these firearms are frequently linked with hunting, they have a range of uses. Generally, bolt-action firearms offer greater accuracy compared to other gun types, making them perfect for long-distance shooting.

These guns can also be equipped with a multitude of scope options, which further enhances their precision. Moreover, bolt-action firearms are typically more robust than other firearm types, implying they're more resistant to wear and tear.

However, a potential drawback of bolt-action guns is that they usually have a slower firing rate compared to other firearm types.

What Must You Check To Make Sure a Bolt-Action Firearm Is Unloaded?

If you're a novice to firearms, understanding how to accurately check if a bolt-action rifle is unloaded may be challenging. Here are the steps you should follow.

Firstly, ensure that the safety is activated and the rifle is directed towards a safe area. Next, initiate the bolt's opening and detach the magazine (if present). Lastly, open the action to visually examine the chamber.

After affirming that the chamber is vacant, you can rest assured that the firearm is secure to handle. Once these steps have been followed, you can be confident in the knowledge that the rifle is unloaded and safe for handling.

However, it is crucial to always adhere to fundamental gun safety protocols whenever handling firearms. If you're uncertain about these rules, it's advisable to either conduct some research or consult with an experienced individual before handling any guns.

What Is a Pump Action?

A pump-action firearm operates by the shooter pulling back the foregrip after each shot to cock the hammer and prepare the next round. The power needed to discharge a round is supplied by a piston linked to the trigger.

Upon trigger activation, the piston retracts, generating pressure within the chamber that propels the round through the barrel towards the target. Pump-action firearms are predominantly found in shotguns, but they can also be seen in certain other firearms.

Furthermore, these types of firearms hold significant appeal among collectors due to their historical significance.

How Do Semi-Automatic and Automatic Relate to Firearm Actions?

In a semi-automatic firearm, every actuation of the trigger results in the firing of one round and the subsequent chambering of the next round. In contrast, an automatic firearm will continue to release rounds for as long as the trigger is held down or until the magazine has been depleted. Machine guns fall into the category of automatic weapons.

Submachine guns have the flexibility to be either semi-automatic or automatic weapons.