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Home » The Basic Groups of Firearms and How They Are Classified

The Basic Groups of Firearms and How They Are Classified

The Basic Groups of Firearms and How They Are Classified

Firearms can be used for recreation, sports, hunting, and protection. They can be single-shot or fully automatic and come in many styles and sizes. Let’s learn more about the basic groups of firearms and how they are classified.


Semi-automatic firearms are guns that fire one shot per pull of the trigger. Because they’re so common and easy to use, they make up most of the firearms owned by civilians. On the other hand, semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, and rifles are legal for civilian ownership in the United States.

On the battlefield, semi-automatic rifles have been used since WWI because of their speed and accuracy; soldiers can fire several shots per second with less recoil than a fully automatic rifle. For competition shooting, as in the events in Olympic competitions, athletes also prefer semi-automatics because of their precision.


Machine guns are the type of automatic firearm that most people think of when they hear the word “automatic.” The first automatic weapons showed up in World War II, and they were used heavily by the Germans. While the duties of each military branch may differ, but they all use automatic weapons to defend our country.

Automatic weapons fire a continuous stream of bullets when the trigger is held down. Many people think you have to be a member of law enforcement or the military to own one, but automatic weapons are technically legal if they were made before 1986. Manufacturing new automatic weapons for civilian use is illegal.

Common examples of automatic firearms include M60 GPMG (light), M249 SAW (light/medium), M240 GPMG (medium), and M2 Browning HMG (heavy).

Assault Rifles

Assault rifles are selective-fire weapons that use intermediate cartridges and detachable magazines. The two most popular assault rifles are the Soviet AK-47 and the German StG44. These guns have been used by military forces worldwide for a very long time.

Class 3 Firearms

Auto-fire or burst fire weapons use a silencer or suppressor. They can be automatic rifles, submachine guns, or machine guns, and these firearms are highly regulated. There are several types of class 3 items that the National Firearms Act restricts.

Each state can impose additional restrictions on the sale, purchase, and transfer of class 3 firearms, and compliance with the National Firearms Act is required.

These are the basic groups of firearms and how they are classified. Technically, all firearms are classified as weapons, but there are a variety of different types that have varying uses and capabilities.

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