Just like shotguns and rifles, handguns are known by their action types. There are four different actions for handguns. Here’s a look at each kind of action in detail to help you decide which type from break-action to semi-automatic suits your needs best.
Important! As with shotguns and rifles, the kind of handgun that a hunter uses depends on hunting laws, personal preferences and the game type pursued.
- Double-action revolver
A single pull of the trigger both cocks and drops the hammer on a double-action revolver. To open the action, every double action has a release button that, when pressed, allows the cylinder to swing out from the frame. With the cylinder accessible, you can load the cartridges into the chambers. To close the cylinder, push the cylinder into the frame until it locks in place. When you pull the trigger back, the cylinder revolves to a new chamber, and at the same time the hammer starts toward the cocked position. Continuing to pull the trigger will result in the cylinder stopping on a new chamber and the hammer being dropped, striking the firing pin. To fire another cartridge, start pulling the trigger back slowly until the revolver fires. Alternatively, while keeping your finger off the trigger, pull the hammer all the way back with your thumb until it locks into position. A slight squeeze on the trigger will fire the gun. To unload the double action, press the cylinder release, swing the cylinder out to expose the chambers, and push on the ejection rod. All the cartridges will fall from the cylinder.
Safety first! Revolvers do not have an external safety. When carrying a revolver, make sure the hammer is resting on an empty chamber.
- Single-action revolver
Unlike its double-action counterpart, a single-action revolver's trigger only releases the hammer. When the hammer is pulled back to the full-cocked position, the trigger is set and can be pulled to fire a single shot. After a shot is fired, the trigger locks in place until the hammer is pulled back to the full-cocked position for another shot. The cylinder does not swing out on a single-action. Loading requires the hammer to be pulled back to the half-cock position. Next, open the loading gate, rotate the cylinder to an empty chamber, and insert a cartridge. To eject a cartridge, pull the hammer to a half-cock position, open the loading gate, and rotate the cylinder until a cartridge is visible. When the cartridge is visible, push on the ejector rod until the cartridge falls out. You must perform this action for each cartridge.
Important! The trigger must be pulled while holding the hammer back to lower the hammer without firing the revolver. Don't slip!
- Break-action pistol or hinge-action pistol
The break-action or hinge-action pistol operates similarly to a break-action rifle or shotgun. To load a cartridge, push on the chamber-release lever and pivot the barrel down. The chamber separates from the firing mechanism and ammunition can then be inserted into the chamber. The pistol is ready to fire once the chamber is closed. After firing, press on the release lever to open the action. Some break-action pistols have automatic ejectors. Others require you to remove spent cartridges or shot shells manually.
Some break-action models have a half-cock hammer safety; know your firearm before loading!
- Semi-automatic pistol
This handgun features an action similar to semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Due to its design, a semi-automatic pistol also generates less recoil. Load the semi-automatic pistol by removing the magazine and pushing cartridges into it until full. Next, insert the magazine into the magazine well, typically located in the pistol grip. Pull back on the slide and release the slide without hindering its motion in any way. The pistol is now loaded. When the trigger is pulled, the round fires, the action opens, the spent case is extracted and ejected and then a new round is chambered. This sequence is repeated for every pull of the trigger. The action remains open automatically when all ammunition stored in the magazine has been used. Many semi-automatic pistols have external safeties to help prevent accidental discharge. Always read and follow manufacturer's instructions.
Safety first! After firing a semi-automatic pistol, look in the chamber to ensure it is empty.