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What Are the Different Parts of a Pistol?

by Ben Jimenez 5 min read

The parts of a pistol can vary depending on the exact model and design. Typically, though, you can expect to find common parts that make your handgun accurate, safe, and effective.

Knowing the different parts of a pistol should help you a reliable weapon and follow maintenance instructions that will keep it in great condition for decades. If you ever forget a part’s name, you can refer to the following list to jog your memory.

Basic Parts of a Pistol

Some innovative handguns may have different parts from the ones on this list. For the most part, though, you will find these major components on your gun.

Action

The action of a gun includes the trigger and the firing mechanism. Single action and double action pistols are popular CCW options. If you don’t know the differences between single and double action handguns, make sure you read the next section for an explanation.

Barrel

The barrel is the metal tube that points bullets in the correct direction. After firing, the bullet travels down the barrel and exits through the muzzle (more about the muzzle below).

Longer barrels tend to offer greater accuracy. If you want to carry a concealed weapon, though, it makes sense to find a gun with a short barrel. A shorter barrel makes it easier to carry in OWB and IWB holsters.

Ejection Port

After firing a bullet, double action pistols need to eject the casing to make room for the next cartridge. The ejection port gives the gun a place to get rid of the old casing before the next cartridge gets loaded into the chamber.

Firing Pin

One of the most important parts of a pistol. The firing pin is a metal pin located in front of the hammer. When the hammer drops, the firing pin hits the bottom of the cartridge to ignite the primer and shoot the bullet through the barrel.

Forward Sight

The forward sight, also called the front sight, helps people aim their handguns. Forward sights are often attached to the barrel. While some guns only have front sights, most models have forward and rear sights that offer better accuracy.

Sights come with a variety of features. Some are little more than raised bits of metal, while more sophisticated ones use lights or lasers to help targeting.

Hammer

On a single action gun, the hammer is what you cock before you squeeze the trigger to fire a bullet. The hammer activates a firing pin or striker that ignites cartridges to shoot bullets down the barrel.

Grip

The grip is the handle that you use to hold your weapon. Manufacturers can make grips from a wide variety of materials, including rubber, nylon, and wood. The grips often have textured surfaces that help gun users maintain control over their gun.

Many modern gun companies make grips with modular panels. Owners can choose the type of material and texture that they prefer for their guns. They can even swap the panels easily for a different feel or look.

Magazine

Double action and semi automatic pistols use magazines instead of cylinders, which are found in revolvers, to carry rounds. Magazines have interior mechanisms that push new rounds into the chamber to prepare for the next shot.

Magazine sizes can vary widely. For example, the Glock 19 comes standard with a 15-round magazine, but owners can choose optional magazines that hold up to 33 rounds. Owners should consider how larger magazines will affect their ability to conceal their pistols. They might also need to make sure that their holsters have designs that can accommodate the larger sizes.

Magazine Release

A pistol's magazine will stay in place until you engage the magazine release. The magazine release is usually a button or lever located just in front of the trigger or trigger guard. When you depress the release, you can easily slide out the magazine.

Muzzle

The muzzle is the hole at the end of the barrel. Carriers should make sure they keep their muzzles and barrels clean so they don’t interfere with accuracy.

Rear Sight

The rear sight is usually positioned near the back end of the slide. It’s often a circle or semi-circle that shooters can use to improve targeting. When looking through the rear sight, the front sight should line up with the target.

Rear sights can also use illuminated lenses and lasers to improve accuracy.

Slide

The slide is one of the moving parts of a pistol. Although the design can differ by model, it often includes the barrel, ejection port, and firing pin or striker. It may also have fixed sights or mounts for optical sights.

Slide Lock (Slide Stop)

The slide lock prevents the slide from moving forward after a semi-automatic pistol has fired its final round. When it locks the slide, it creates a visual indicator that the shooter has run out of bullets. In some guns, it also depresses the slide lock so you can add a new magazine immediately.

Striker

A striker performs the function of a hammer in double action guns that do not have exterior hammers.

Trigger

One of the most familiar parts of a handgun. You pull the trigger to drop the hammer and fire a bullet. Triggers perform slightly different functions depending on whether you have a single action or double action gun.

Trigger Guard

The trigger guard is a gun safety feature that helps prevent accidental discharges. In most models, they are metal loops that block the trigger. Before someone can fire the weapon, they need to put their finger inside the loop to squeeze the trigger.

Popular Types of Pistols for Concealed Carry

Modern handguns usually fit into one of three categories:

  • Single action
  • Double action
  • Semi automatic

The type of gun that you own will partially determine the parts of a pistol that you need to maintain.

Single Action Pistols

Single action pistols have triggers that perform one task. When you squeeze the trigger, the hammer drops and fires the bullet in the chamber. That means you need to cock the hammer manually before you can shoot.

Although single action pistols make you manually cock your gun, they have some advantages that many people like. The greatest advantage is that you don’t have to use much force to pull the trigger. Since the trigger only performs one function, a slight squeeze will fire the gun.

If you’re used to using a rifle, you can think of single action pistols as handheld versions that need recocking before shots.

Double Action Pistols

Double action pistols cock and drop the hammer when you squeeze the trigger. Your trigger finger will need more strength to fire the gun because it needs enough force to cock the hammer and drop it against the bullet.

With a double action pistol, you can expect to spend less time between firing rounds since you don’t need to cock the hammer. Then again, your hand may get tired after repeated shots.

When you compare single action and double action pistols, you will likely notice that you don’t see an exterior hammer on the double action model. Most modern pistols with double action firing mechanisms have internal hammers. You don’t need to touch them, so manufacturers don’t need to put the hammers on the outside of the gun.

Only double action guns have:

  • Upper receivers that include the recoil spring, recoil pin, and barrel.
  • Lower receivers that hold the magazine release, trigger assembly, grip module, and take-down lever.
  • Magazine that uses a floorplate, spring, and follower to place bullets into position.

Semi Automatic Pistols

Semi automatic pistols perform several steps when you pull the trigger. Each squeeze initiates the striker to fire the bullet, lets the magazine move the next cartridge into position, and prepares the gun to shoot another round.

Get the Right Holster for Your Gun and Its Parts

We sell a broad range of holsters designed to accommodate your gun and all parts of the pistol. Browse our catalog online to find the right Kydex holster for your favorite CCW.

Ben Jimenez
Ben Jimenez


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