the rogue turtle the rogue turtle
Our Mission
We provide information on survivalism, camping, food storage, cooking and grilling, and self reliance.

Our goal is to ensure you are prepared for natural and man-made disasters, before, during and after they occur.
Home Research Sign Up Links About the Rogue Turtle Contact Store

Sign up for newsletter updates!
The Armory: Firearm Basics
© 2006


This is a famous term used by architects showing that what you build (or buy) must follow what you want to use it for. The same is true for purchasing weapons. You must first decide what the purpose of the proposed weapon is. Available today are weapons for sport, hunting, competition shooting, self defense, and military use.


The biggest mistake I find when buying weapons is to buy one just because you hear someone else brag about their gun. The number two mistake is husbands who think its their "duty" to buy a handgun for their wives, without the wife having any say-so about it. Guns must fit the hands of the shooter. If you buy a gun that is uncomfortable (either too large or too small) you will not like the weapon. If you don't like it, you won't use it. If you won't use it, you don't practice...and without practice the gun is just another expensive rock.

So, husbands, if you want to save some money - just buy her a rock. It's a lot cheaper.


A firearm is any weapon that uses a controlled and self-contained charge of explosive to push a small projectile (bullet or shell) out of a metal tube. The first firearms were just crudely made cylinders with gunpowder packed in the closed end of a tube. Then a metal ball was packed into the tube. When the gunpowder was lit by a torch or burning fuse through a small hole in the closed end, the powder exploded (actually it's a fast burn), and the expanding air forced the metal ball out the other end of the cylinder. Crude, but effective. These later became cannons for Armies all over the world to kill each other.

Along the way of development, some of the designers came up with a method of firing these little balls from small, hand-held guns that one man could use. The first designs were crude and were just as likely to kill the shooter as to kill the intended target. As metallurgy improved, so did the weapons. At some time or other, the gunpowder was packed into the bottom of small metal (usually brass) shell casings and the metal projectiles were packed at the other end. These became known as bullets or "shells". However, the term "round" is still used to mean one bullet.

In the early stages of firearms manufacture, it was determined that making the bullet spin made it more accurate than a tumbling (round) metal ball. To do this, spiral shaped grooves were machined inside the metal tube (now called the barrel) to spin the metal projectile. The more spin, the greater the accuracy.

Almost all weapons today (except shotguns) have these twists built inside the barrels. Bullets are manufactured by the millions with a small primer (explosive) used to explode a larger explosive which in turn propels the projectile down the length of the barrel. The more explosive packed into the bullet, the faster and more powerful the projectile will be. Now, with the single pull of a trigger, it is possible to send one - or a thousand - bullets flying towards an intended target. Cannons are still called cannons even today. Handguns, long guns, pistols and revolvers all have had significant improvements until now they are extremely deadly, efficient killing machines. None of them, however, have the ability to pull their own triggers.


Since the invention of gunpowder, thousands of different versions of handguns have been made. There are still many manufacturers of weapons worldwide. The choice of weapons is virtually unlimited, especially if your income is unlimited. Good weapons are not cheap. Starting out with no knowledge of weapons at all, you need to know some of the basics. The two following types of weapons below fall into the category of "Small Arms". They are referred to as Long Guns, and Handguns.
For practical civilian use: If it's not a cannon, it's a "Small Arm". The military has other terms.


These are the rifles and shotguns used today for hunting, defensive and offensive military uses, and home defense. Almost all of them take two hands to use. One hand to steady the longer, heavier barrel, and the other hand to pull the trigger. Long guns are usually more accurate than smaller hand guns because they have more twists in the barrel and use (generally) larger sized ammunition. Their history can be traced back to the flintlocks and muzzle-loaders of years-gone-by.

There are, however, blurry lines drawn now between the "Long Gun" and the smaller "Hand Gun". In this category there are assault type weapons (either fully automatic "machine guns", or semi-automatic weapons). Some of these weapons can be fired with either one or two hands. These weapons are more in the order of military or police-type weapons, and most are now closely controlled by federal laws.

The Kalashnikov AK-47 is arguably the most used and most copied assault weapon in the world. It's many variants include a folding stock that makes this fully automatic weapon considerably smaller and easier to conceal.

The Uzi, manufactured in Israel, is very small and easily hidden under a jacket or light weight coat.


This category includes revolvers and semi-automatic handguns. They can use very small bullets but most are available in many different sizes up to the awesome .50 caliber handguns that can kill a semi. Generally speaking, the bigger the bullet fired by the gun, the harder it is to aim and shoot. When you hear the term "stopping power", it is in reference to the size of the bullet and its ability to "stop" another human trying to attack you. A small bullet, like a .22 caliber bullet can kill you, but you have to be VERY accurate and make a shot to the brain to stop a drug-crazed opponent who feels no pain because of the drugs. A much larger bullet, like a .40 caliber round has a LOT more powder in the shell pushing out a MUCH LARGER projectile. This bullet will have more "stopping power" than a .22 bullet will ever hope to have.


This term is generally used to describe both the revolver and the semi-automatic hand guns described next. It may not be technically correct but it is generally accepted as a term to cover both styles of weapons. The term pistol can also cover other handguns that don't fit the revolver or semi-automatic hand gun classifications.

Revolver is an early design for carrying more than one bullet at a time inside the hand gun. A round cylinder with holes in it holds (usually) 5 or 6 bullets. Each time the hammer is pulled back, the cylinder rotates one position around, putting another bullet into firing position. The revolver is still in production today and is still a very reliable, low maintenance firearm. However, many gun owners wanted to carry even more bullets in their hand guns. A number to different styles and methods were developed to do this. Almost any bullet size can be fired in a revolver, but the bigger the bullet the bigger the weapons must be to handle the extreme pressures of large ammunition.

Made famous by TV movies, the Derringer-style weapons produced today are not true revolvers since they only hold two bullets. They can be purchased in .22 caliber sizes up to .44 caliber sizes. Used strictly as a last minute, emergency self defense gun, it is easy to hide in a pocket, vest, or any convenient location on your body. These are very small sized weapons and easy to conceal.


These became really popular after WW II with the success of the Colt 1911 weapon issued to the US Army. It carried a magazine (also erroneously called a "clip") with 7 or 8 rounds in it. One round was fired every time the trigger was pulled, but there was no revolving cylinder like the above revolvers. However, because there are a lot more parts inside these weapons, the potential for mechanical failure is much higher than a revolver. Today's manufacturers have tried very hard to eliminate these firing failures and today's weapons are much better than they used to be. Almost any bullet size can be fired in a semi-automatic handgun, but with the extra weight of both the bullets and the beefed up frame, a very large caliber gun is very bulky, heavy and hard to conceal. The AK-47 assault rifle is the most copied rifle in the world - but the Colt 1911 is the most copied handgun.


This Civil War era field cannon on the left would be impossible nowadays to either tow behind your car (cars behind you would be VERY nervous), or fit into the back of your pickup truck (ditto). It can't be hidden on your person, and takes a very long time to reload. However, it is the great, great, great grandfather of all the weapons I've shown so far. It would make a great piece to sit in your front yard to keep the neighbors behavior within your established limits. However, the local law enforcement officials would be constant visitors to your house. I don't think even Florida issues a "cannon permit".