Gun Basics: Difference Between Rifle, Shotgun and Handgun

J5 Tactical Flashlight

Gun Basics: Difference Between Rifle, Shotgun and Handgun


If you are new to the world of firearms, then it’s important learn the difference between the three main types of guns. Any one of them can be used for shooting, but you should choose one based on their intended purpose in order to maximize their effectiveness. Guns are tools in a way, and following that old adage about using the right tool for the job applies to firearms as well. Let’s take a look at some general things that make these guns different.





Rifles are designed with precision and distance shooting in mind. They are used by hunters, snipers or a shooter who is taking steps to track and fire upon a target. They have special barrels that are bored with grooves that cause the bullet to spin as it is fired. This provides for accuracy and the ability for the bullet to maintain a trajectory for a long distance. The level of accuracy will depend on the rifle model, accessories, type of ammunition and the skill of the shooter.

They are ideal for long-distance shooting, and projectile ranges often exceed two or more miles. However, they make for an excellent defensive weapon at home or in the wilderness as they are also accurate at close to medium distances.




Shotguns do not fire a bullet, rather they unleash hundreds of tiny projectiles. These shot pellets tend to spread out with distance, and they are used to inflict a broad range of damage on a target a short to medium distance away. However, shotguns are not suitable or safe for firing at hard targets at close range. They are deadly-effective if fired at someone who is nearby as they are a soft target.

Shotguns have different designs and usually accommodate a particular gauge of ammunition. It’s important to choose a shotgun based on what you will be shooting as well as your proximity to a target. Large shot pellets can travel upwards of a mile and impact a target area tens of feet in diameter. However, the force of the shot also decreases with distance, so closer targets will be impacted more severely. They are ideal in fast-shooting situations when broad coverage is required as opposed to accuracy.




Handguns are essentially mini-rifles. Models will vary in terms of accuracy, capability and range. Some have special barrels whereas others incorporate composite material. Various ammunition is also available for many types of guns. Handguns are obviously ideal in close-combat situations, but they can also be effective when shooting at far away targets. Keep in mind that handguns will vary greatly in terms of their durability, ease of maintenance and level of precision.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing the right gun, other than to have an idea of its intended purpose. People prefer one gun over another for a number of unique and personal reasons, and it’s important to experiment with a variety of different guns in order to find one that feels just right.

Your ability to shoot a target rests on the type of gun and ammunition you are using as much as it depends on skill. Using the right gun for the right circumstances can enhance your ability to effectively accomplish your objective.   Make sure that you build cache based on your unique needs and circumstances.