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U.S. soldier fires an M-4 rifle. A shell casing (the detached back part of a bullet) flies out.
A small hand-gun is called a pistol.

A gun is a weapon used to shoot metal pieces called bullets, usually meant to hurt, harm, kill, or scare people and animals. Guns are also called firearms. They are of many different sizes; small enough to hold in one hand, or large enough to fire metal pieces to sink a warship. Guns that are small enough to be carried and used by one person have the same basic parts: a trigger, a barrel, and a handle. The trigger is pulled by a finger to fire the bullet. The barrel guides the bullet. The handle is held by the human who will fire the gun.

In military terms, the word "firearm" is used for the type of weapons that soldiers carry: pistols (known as 'shorts') and rifles ('longs'). The word "gun" is used for larger guns that fire at higher speed. The weapons on warships and tanks are called "guns" or "turrets" (if placed on a rotating base), not "firearms".

Guns are very effective weapons. Guns fire bullets at a very high speed, which is much more deadly than an arrow or spear.

Bullets are basically non-explosive bits of metal, as opposed to shells, which explode upon impact. A modern bullet is the front part of a round or cartridge. A cartridge consists of a bullet, a casing, propellant and a primer. When the rear end is struct by the hammer, an explosion in the back of the cartridge shoots the bullet.

Cartridges have different ways of being loaded into different kinds of weapons. Cartridges can be loaded directly into a firearm or into a clip, a magazine or other bullet container which is loaded into the firearm. Some firearms have their rounds loaded into the stock (or butt) of the weapon. A clip is loaded with rounds and the clip is loaded into a weapon. The magazine is a container for the rounds which has a spring that moves the bullets into place for firing. Firearms known as revolvers have a cylinder with holes that the bullets are loaded into. Modern guns are usually loaded with a magazine and are called automatic loading.

Use of firearms

A hunting rifle, such as this one, is designed to kill animals rather than people.

Firearms are designed to shoot (send out at high speed) bullets (small pieces of shaped metal) at people or animals, causing damage to them. Most firearms are designed to shoot at people. Some kinds of firearms, such as hunting rifles, are designed to shoot at other animals. A deer hunter usually shoots a deer with a rifle. Some people also use firearms for shooting sports, usually known as target shooting. Target Shooting is an Olympic sport.

Guns are the main weapons used by armies. In modern armies every soldier has a firearm as part of his or her equipment which they are taught to use and keep in good working order. Guns have been used by armies since about 900 AD when the Chinese began using cannons. Long barreled guns called muskets, that could be carried and used by one person, were used in China by the 1300s. Guns were not an important weapon in European armies until the 1600s.

As guns make it very easy to kill, many countries only allow soldiers, policemen, (and in some countries, noblemen) to have them. In many countries, a person must have a special permit (or license) if they want to own a gun. Depending on the gun, people need to be a certain age and may need to meet other criteria to get such a permit. An example of this is that in the United States you can get some types of guns when you are 18. In United States and other countries, people can buy some guns and use them for self-defense, sport such as hunting, target shooting and target practice. In some countries, such as Australia, people who live on farms are allowed to keep guns, but it is not easy for a person living in the city to get a gun without good reason.

Common gun types