As a first time gun buyer, if you want to buy a rifle it's good to become familiar with this type of firearm to see if it sounds like a good fit for you.

Rifles Have Rifled Bores

Rifles are classified as a long gun. They have a rifled bore and they shoot single projectiles

The term "rifling" describes spiraled grooves which are cut into the bore of a firearm's barrel. It also describes the lands. Lands are the ridges that rise up between the spiraled grooves.

Once ammo is fired, rifling causes it to spin. This spinning action affects the trajectory of a bullet and increases its accuracy. Also, a rifled bore allows a bullet travel a longer distance than if it were fired from gun whose bore was not rifled.

Shotguns, by comparison, do not fire single projectiles. They fire what is called shot. Shot is made up of many pellets that exit the barrel and spread out.

Rifles Are Categorized by Action Type

Rifles are frequently categorized by action type.

Actions are the part of the firearm that holds all or most of the moving parts. Actions sit in front of the gun's barrel. Depending on the type of gun, the action can include the following parts (please note, this is not an exhaustive list): trigger, hammer, receiver, safety, extractor, ejector.

The three main action types are:

  • Lever-action
  • Bolt-action
  • Semi-automatic


First Time Gun Buyer explains the basics about rifles
lever action rifle
bolt action rifle
semi automatic rifle


Lever-action rifles have a lever that you push down and forward, then pull back to chamber a round. Once you fire the gun, you repeat pushing and pulling the lever to chamber the next round.

Lever-action rifles are mostly used for hunting and target shooting. When it comes to hunting, lever-action rifles are often used for close-in targets. Lever-action rifles typically do not have the range or accuracy as that of bolt-action or semi-automatic rifles.


Bolt-action rifles have a bolt handle which you rotate, pull, and push to feed and eject each round of ammunition. Bolt-actions have a rugged design with fewer moving parts than other rifles which makes them easier to disassemble and reassemble when it is time for maintenance or repair.

Bolt-action rifles are commonly used for hunting because they are lightweight, high-powered, and accurate.


Semi-automatic rifles use the gases released when a round of ammunition is fired to opperate the bolt to chamber the next round chamber. When using a semi-automatic rifle, you need to manually chamber the first round, but once that round is fired, chambering happens automatically.

The difference between semi-automatic and fully-automatic rifles is that with a semi-automatic rifle, to fire a round you must pull the trigger every time to fire. With fully-automatic rifles, once you press down on the trigger, the firearm will continue to fire until you run out of ammunition or release the trigger.

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