What are the Two Basic Styles of Firearm Actions: A Guide

what are the two basic styles of firearm actions
what are the two basic styles of firearm actions

What are the Two Basic Styles of Firearm Actions

The two basic styles of firearm actions are:

Single Action: In a single-action firearm, the trigger performs a single action, which is releasing the hammer or striker to strike the firing pin and discharge the round. The shooter must manually cock the hammer or pull back the slide (in the case of semi-automatic pistols) before each shot to prepare the firearm for firing. Examples of single-action firearms include many revolvers and some semi-automatic pistols.

Double Action: In a double-action firearm, the trigger performs two actions: it both cocks the hammer or striker and releases it to fire the round in a single pull. This means that with each trigger pull, the firearm can both chamber a round and fire it. Double-action firearms can also typically be manually cocked for single-action fire if desired. Many revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, especially those designed for self-defense, are double-action.

These two styles of firearm actions have different characteristics and are chosen based on factors like intended use, personal preference, and safety considerations.

What Is a Firearm Action?

Before diving into the two basic styles, let’s understand what a firearm action is. A firearm action is the internal mechanism responsible for the cycle of operations when firing a round. These operations include loading a cartridge, firing it, ejecting the spent casing, and chambering a new round. The type of action profoundly influences how quickly and efficiently a firearm can perform these tasks.

Manual Firearm Actions

Bolt Action

One of the most well-known manual firearm actions is the bolt action. In a bolt-action firearm, the shooter manually operates a bolt to load a round, cock the firing pin, and eject the spent casing. Bolt-action rifles are renowned for their accuracy and reliability, making them a popular choice for hunting and precision shooting. For more Interesting Information visit our Website: Instanot

Lever Action

Lever-action firearms use a lever to cycle rounds through the chamber. While less common today, lever-action rifles and shotguns have a unique charm and historical significance. They are often associated with the Old West and are still used for hunting and sporting purposes.

Pump Action

Pump-action firearms, commonly found in shotguns, require the shooter to manually slide a forend back and forth to chamber rounds. These firearms are favored for their rapid-fire capability and versatility, making them suitable for both hunting and home defense.

Semi-Automatic Firearm Actions

Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic

Semi-automatic firearms use the energy generated by firing a round to automatically eject the spent casing, chamber a new round, and reset the firing mechanism. Gas-operated semi-automatics are known for their smooth recoil and rapid-fire capability. They are widely used in military and civilian applications.

Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic
Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic

Blowback Semi-Automatic

Blowback semi-automatic firearms rely on the force of the expanding cartridge to cycle the action. These firearms are simpler in design and often found in handguns and smaller firearms. They are known for their reliability and ease of use.

Key Differences Between Manual and Semi-Automatic Actions

The primary difference between manual and semi-automatic actions is the degree of shooter involvement. Manual actions require the shooter to operate the firearm’s action manually for each shot, while semi-automatic actions automatically cycle the next round, allowing for faster follow-up shots.

Applications of Manual Firearm Actions

Manual actions are typically favored for precision shooting, where accuracy and control are paramount. Bolt-action rifles, for example, are popular among long-range shooters and hunters who need one-shot, one-kill accuracy.

Applications of Semi-Automatic Firearm Actions

Semi-Automatic Firearm Actions
Semi-Automatic Firearm Actions

Semi-automatic actions excel in scenarios where rapid fire is necessary. Law enforcement, self-defense, and competitive shooting sports often rely on semi-automatic handguns and rifles for their ability to deliver quick, successive shots.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Manual Actions

Manual actions are known for their reliability, accuracy, and simplicity. However, they are slower to operate than semi-automatic actions and require more skill and practice for quick follow-up shots.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Semi-Automatic Actions

Semi-automatic actions are prized for their rapid fire and ease of use. They are ideal for self-defense and situations where multiple shots are needed quickly. However, they can be more complex and less reliable in adverse conditions.

Choosing the Right Firearm Action for You

Selecting the right firearm action depends on your intended use. Consider factors like accuracy, rate of fire, and your level of training and experience when making your choice. It’s essential to match the firearm to your specific needs and preferences.

Safety Considerations

Regardless of the firearm action type, safety should always be a top priority. Proper training, storage, and adherence to firearm safety rules are crucial to responsible firearm ownership.


In summary, the two basic styles of firearm actions, manual and semi-automatic, cater to different needs and preferences. Manual actions offer precision and reliability, while semi-automatic actions provide rapid fire and ease of use. Your choice of firearm action should align with your intended purpose and skill level.


Q. Are semi-automatic firearms more dangerous than manual ones?

A. Semi-automatic firearms are not inherently more dangerous than manual ones. The safety of a firearm depends on the user’s knowledge, training, and responsible handling.

Q. Can you convert a semi-automatic firearm into a manual one?

A. Converting a semi-automatic firearm into a manual one can be complex and may involve legal restrictions. It’s essential to consult with local laws and experts before attempting any modifications.

Q. Are manual actions more reliable than semi-automatic ones?

A. Manual actions are often considered more reliable in adverse conditions due to their simplicity. However, both manual and semi-automatic firearms can be reliable when properly maintained.

Q. Which action type is better for hunting?

A. For hunting, bolt-action rifles are a popular choice due to their accuracy and reliability. However, the choice of action type ultimately depends on the hunter’s preferences and the type of game being pursued.

Q. What are some popular firearms with manual actions?

A. Popular firearms with manual actions include the Remington 700, Winchester Model 70, and Tikka T3, all known for their accuracy and versatility.

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Henry is a passionate writer and content creator with a knack for storytelling. With a background in literature and a keen interest in technology, Henry brings a unique perspective to his writing, blending creativity with analytical insight. He enjoys exploring a wide range of topics, from the latest advancements in AI and robotics to the intricacies of human behavior and society. Henry's goal is to engage, entertain, and inform his readers, leaving them with new ideas to ponder and perspectives to consider. When he's not writing, you can find Henry exploring the great outdoors or lost in a good book.


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