A Beginner’s Guide to Different Types of Rifles

If you’re a beginner in hunting, it might be difficult to choose the right rifle. You might get overwhelmed when you go to the store or start looking for some options online. Each and every model has its own unique characteristics and purposes. Not every rifle is suitable for every hunter or prey. So, if you’re not sure what to get, ask questions, read and get familiar with your options.

Types of Rifle

Lever Action

Did you know that the lever-action rifles were created in the mid-1800s? This was one of the first major leaps when it came to these weapons. They had many purposes, people were using them for hunting, law enforcement, combat and personal defence. This was the weapon to go for many people for hunting anything from the smallest to the biggest game.

These weapons are lightweight, easy to control and hit their target very fast. Because of this, many hunters use them nowadays. These rifles can hold 15 or even more spare cartridges. Many of them have a tubular magazine that sits just beneath the barrel. The more modern versions, however, have a removable box magazine.

There’s a lever underneath the action and the shooter can manually roll the bolt when they’re done shooting. They do this by pushing the lever forward. This ejects the wasted casing. When the shooter pulls the lever back, they’re ready to reload and add a new cartridge in the chamber. Most lever-action rifles can hit a target at 140 m.

Bolt Action

bolt action rifle
source: everand.com

If you want a clean shot, you should invest in a consistent and accurate rifle. This is where the bolt action rifles come into play. They’re very popular among hunters and were a favourite in the 20th century. They got that popular because they could fire repeatedly high-pressure cartridges. Even nowadays, they’re one of the most accurate pieces on the market.

You can configure them to be a repeater or a single-shooter. When they’re a repeater, they can fire and hold around five rounds. Shooters have to manually cycle the bolt for each shot, which involves lifting the bolt handle, drawing back to expel a spent case, and inserting a fresh cartridge into the rifle’s chamber. They’re very quick and accurate and are one of the best long-range pieces. They’re safe and easy to use and are used for all-purpose hunting.

Pump Action

Pump-action rifles are a favourite among deer hunters, despite the fact that they’re very rare. Also, there is a community of enthusiasts who seek early-20th-century rimfire pump-actions. They’re considered a collectible and are highly appreciated and cherished. In the beginning, these rifles were also known as slide-action rifles.

They work very similarly to the pump action shotguns. But instead of a tubular magazine, they use a box magazine. When reloading new cartridges from the magazine and opening and closing the bolt, the forend of pump-action rifles glides back and forth. When doing it rearward it opens the bolt and releases the spent casing.

When the shooter pushes forward, it loads a new cartridge. These rifles are strong enough to be chambered in many cartridges and can be shot very quickly. Plus, they’re lightweight. They’re not as accurate as falling block or bolt action rifles and are good for hunting in the woods where the prey won’t be more than 180 m away.

Falling Block

Falling block rifles use a thick, squared-off metal piece called a breach block to close the breach end of the barrel. There’s a lever underneath the trigger which is used to move the breach up and down. When it’s down, it means that the breach is open, and the shooter can load. When it’s up, you can shoot. This is a single-shot rifle that needs a reload after every shot. Falling block rifles are very strong and smaller than the others.


a person holding a automatic rifle
source: cromusa.com

Automatic rifles also referred to as machine guns, can shoot as long as the trigger is pushed, and of course, as long as it has ammunition to discharge. The M4 carabine for example has burst firing and semi-automatic modes. They’re very regulated on the market and often have strict regulations on how to buy and use them.


Semi-automatic rifles are the most up-to-date rifles for sale available to civilians outside of the military. They’re self-loading and most of them use a box magazine. They can hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition. The shooter only needs to pull the trigger and the rifle does the rest. It ejects the spent casing and loads a new one ready to be shot.

Compared to automatics where you hold the trigger continuously, the semi-automatic requires the trigger to be pulled for each shot. Semi-automatics are usually heavier than the others and are used for hunting, competition shooting, law enforcement and personal protection. They also have less recoil.

Breech Loading

Breech-loading rifles can be single-shot and double rifles. Single shots are self-explanatory. Double ones use two barrels that can be side by side or one on top of the other. Each barrel has its own cartridge. Both work in the same way as a break-action shotgun does. They’re activated by a lever at the top or bottom of the rifle.

Hunters love double rifles because they fire quickly, are easy to handle and have a quick follow-up shot. Single-shot rifles can vary in price a lot. They can also be broken down if you need to pack them in a backpack for example. Plus, they’re very easy to clean and maintain.

Muzzle Loading

a person shooting a muzzle loading rifle
source: americanrifleman.org

Muzzle-loading rifles are loaded through the muzzle end with loose powder and either a round ball or a bullet. Both get pushed down with a ramrod. And if the shooter wants to shoot again, they need to repeat this process. They’re a very old variety of the rifle family and are still in use today.