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Rifles, Rifles, Rifles, or is it a Shotgun???

A Girl and Her Gun: Rifles, Rifles, Rifles, or is it a Shotgun???

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rifles, Rifles, Rifles, or is it a Shotgun???

I am crazy in love with my handgun and I am beyond anxious to purchase my next one later this month, but, after my trip to the range a few weeks ago and getting to shoot some rifles, I now have a new love.

The thing about me, is that I don't have to know you well or even understand you to be in love with you.  I knew my husband for about a minute and married him, but eventually, I kind of like to move past the shiny fun parts and get to the heart of the matter.

I have been blog hopping and reading and trying to learn about all things long gun.  So far it has been fun, but not much learning has taken place.

You people know to much.  I mean that in the best possible, you knock my socks off, but I can't keep up, kind of way.

It all starts to blend together after a while.  I think it will get much better for me after my trip to North Carolina for the Appleseed event, where I get to shoot more rifles or shotguns, not sure, but until then I could use some clarification.

I need a basic explanation of the difference between a rifle and a shotgun and what the heck they are used for.

Here is what I know or what I think I know...

A riffle uses a regular bullet and can reach a target farther away than a hand gun??

A shotgun uses that casing thing with a lot of tiny "balls"??  Mostly used for hunting??

I know a lot of people talk about a shotgun for home defense, but others talk about an AR or AK which are riffles??  Which one has the pump action??  Shotgun??

A gentleman from my husband's office sent him home with this pretty little number

Amber Dot Sight, what would it be called, an attachment?

My husband explained what it does and I spent time scooping out all the knick knacks in my house in case any of them ever revolt,  but do I need that?

I realize this is probably a long and exhaustive discussion with many opinions, but I would be most grateful for the basic run down.

Any takers?


At January 6, 2012 at 6:51 AM , Blogger North said...

I don't know why you bother asking. Gun people don't like to talk about guns or teach anyone.


At January 6, 2012 at 6:53 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

I have noticed that North, but I am persistent little thing, so I just keep trying to get you all to come out of your shells.

At January 6, 2012 at 7:04 AM , Blogger North said...

" come out of your shells " Your get a loud report when that happens.

"A riffle uses a regular bullet and can reach a target farther away than a hand gun??"

From a distant view this is right. The long tube the bullet scoots down helps accuracy, as does having a longer back/front site distance. Generally rifle ammo (the bullet is just part of it) has more spunk than handgun ammo.

Hmmm. I have a lot of gun books. Lemme look for a title for you.

At January 6, 2012 at 7:13 AM , Blogger North said...

I have a lot of specific subject books, many on handguns and self defense.

One I have that covers a lot of general ground is "Guns 101: A beginners guide to buying and owning firearms" by David Steier. This is a good over-all intro to guns. Pistols, rifles, and shotguns are covered. Ammo is talked about. Holsters, gun shops, ranges, safety.

The only negative about the book is that it is self-published and really needs better typographical work and editing.

At January 6, 2012 at 7:22 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Awesome! Thank you.

At January 6, 2012 at 7:33 AM , Blogger Matt W said...

North pointing you in the direction of a good book is probably the best way to go. But one big difference between shotguns and rifles (other than the type of cartridge used) is that shotguns have smooth bores. And rifles have rifled bores (metal groves that twist down the inside length of the barrel)

At January 6, 2012 at 7:38 AM , Blogger Matt W said...

Oh and "pump" style actions are most commonly associated with shotguns. However shotguns can also be found with many common rifle actions such as bolt or lever actions. They are not as common though.

At January 6, 2012 at 7:39 AM , Blogger JD said...

"I need a basic explanation of the difference between a
rifle and a shotgun and what the heck they are used for.

Here is what I know or what I think I know...

A riffle uses a regular bullet and can reach a target farther away than a hand gun??

A shotgun uses that casing thing with a lot of tiny "balls"?? Mostly used for hunting??

I know a lot of people talk about a shotgun for home defense, but others talk about an AR or AK
which are riffles?? Which one has the pump action?? Shotgun??"

Don't worry about acttions, action types can be the same for shotgun and rifle. There are bolt action shotguns, pump action shotguns, lever action shotguns,
break action shotguns etc. Just know that these different actions have pros and cons.

A rifle (in modern usage) uses a metallic cartridge with a single prjectile designed for optium flight and effect on target.
Shotguns use different types of cartridges, most commonly a plastic "hull" (this replaces the metalic cartridge case) allthough there are metallic and even paper shotgun shells out there
these hulls are either filled with pellets aka "shot" these pellets come in different sizes and mixes for differing tasks. There are also slugs which are typically a really, really big bullet and sabot slugs which
are a little more stream lined than standard slugs.

Shotguns can have rifled, or smooth bore barrels and pending on which you're using you need to use the correct slugs for, that's topic for another time.
Rilfes will always have rifled barrels.

As for general uses, both are used for huning and defense as well as competition.

Previously, the shotgun was the go to gun for law enforcement to back up their handguns, over the last couple of years law enforcemnt has been gravitating toward rifles/carbines (a carbine is a "shorter" rifle)
for use as the range and capacity far exceed the shotgun.

For home defense, either can be good, but be leary of those that say a shot gun is less likely to over penetrage, depending on range and type of load being used, shotguns can out penetrate rifle rounds as the smaller, more fragile
projectile (especially if using frangible ammunition) will break apart and may not go thrugh as many walls etc. while a load of "00" (double ought) Buck shot which generally consists of 9, .32 caliber balls will go thrugh quite a bit before stopping.

As for accessores, welcome to the wide world of "optics" which conists of your sights and scopes etc. Does one "need" an optic, the general consensus these days is that's it's probably better to have one than to not but make sure that you spend some time
getting acquainted with the iron sights of the long gun.

To be continued.

At January 6, 2012 at 7:45 AM , Blogger Matt W said...

And to correct my first post, per JD, he is correct that to further "complicate" things, shotguns can have rifled bores as well as smooth bores.

There are lots of nuances out there!

At January 6, 2012 at 8:00 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Super, super, super! This is exactly what I needed. This "basic" info helps me categorize in my mind and then when I read books like the one North suggested, I am not spending all my time flipping around or googling just to understand what the author is saying.

At January 6, 2012 at 9:31 AM , Blogger Wolfman said...

I guess the question for us is, what are you wanting to do with it? Rifles, especially, vary a LOT, depending on their purpose, and are anything from .22LR up to .700 Nitro, in dizzying variation. Shotguns, generally, are measured in 'gauge' and shoot clouds of small projectiles, very useful for shooting things in the air; trap, skeet, or bird shooting for example. A good place to start would be, "What fun thing would you like to try?" and we can come back with some suggested reading materials and cogent suggestions.

At January 6, 2012 at 9:55 AM , Blogger TheMinuteman said...

Now that Windows Live Writer is working again, I'll spend tonight writing up a post with pictures to help explain.

JD's description though is a great written starting point and should help you.

At January 6, 2012 at 10:08 AM , Blogger Tango Juliet said...

Rifles are far easier to shoot accurately than are handguns. The fact that two hands are used to brace the long gun against the body, using good solid stances, coupled with the greater sight radius of the typical rifle, makes it far, far easier to hit, especially at distance.

Rifle cartridges generally have much, much higher velocity, which greatly flattens trajectory and again, makes them easier to shoot than a handgun.

Handguns are useful in the fact that they are concealable and portable. Compared to rifles though, they're poor manstoppers, particularly in the common calibers you'll find semi-auto handguns chambered for.

"A handgun is what you use to fight your way back to the rifle that you shouldn't have put down in the first place." - Clint Smith

"Rifles eat cover." - Clint Smith

"Personal weapons are what raised mankind out of the mud, and the rifle is the queen of personal weapons." - Jeff Cooper

"The purpose of the pistol is to stop a fight that somebody else has started, almost always at very short range." - Jeff Cooper

One gets the impression from these two that rifles are "all that", right? :)

Buy a nice little .22 rifle and learn to shoot it. They're fun and no one's collection is complete without at least one .22 rifle.

More research and experience and you'll be able to determine what suits your needs best.

Incidentally, IMHO, AR's are the ultimate in HD weapons. As Clint Smith would tell you, rifles will change an assailant's channel real quick. :)

At January 6, 2012 at 10:41 AM , Blogger Pyrotek85 said...

There are also guns called pistol carbines, which is a long gun, usually on the smaller side, that uses a pistol caliber. They often use pistol magazines as well.

Take this for example

The 40 S&W Glock mag version can take the larger Glock pistol magazines, but probably not the G27 ones since they're too short. But just by having a stock and a longer sight radius, you can shoot much further than you could from your pistol, using the same ammunition. The accuracy aspect has more to do with the people part than the machine.

For a first rifle though, I'd agree with what others said and get a quality .22LR. It's very very cheap to feed so you can get tons of practice before deciding on something bigger.

At January 6, 2012 at 12:09 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Wolfman, the fun thing I really want to shoot is an AR. I shot it once like 4 rounds. Don't know why, but I like it:)

Tango Juliet, you rock! Thank you. I have so much to read and I know I need to get Jeff Cooper's stuff.

See, now Pyrotek85 is just the smartiepants I was talking about. Coming here trying to confuse Actually, I understood info. Thanks!

Minuteman, YIPPEEE!!!

At January 6, 2012 at 12:36 PM , Blogger Pyrotek85 said...

I've been into guns for about 4-5 years now and I'm still learning new things all the time. There really aren't many rules regarding design or configuration, so you can get some odd combinations at times.

If there is one thing I'd like to stress, start off with commonly used guns and calibers. The Glock was a great first pistol for you, everyone knows about them so you'll always have help/parts/accessories available if you need it.

An AR-15 would be a good choice for a more powerful rifle for the same reasons; they're extremely common. There is no shortage of parts or expertise. The same goes for an AK-47 variant

At January 6, 2012 at 1:25 PM , Blogger Wolfman said...

The AR is certainly a lot of fun! .223 Remington is a great caliber for sport shooting (although there are many who don't recommend it for a military use, but that's a different discussion). Its works great for small game and the like. For just shooting, though, its a great platform. If you feel like going long range, a heavier caliber would be good. There are some great rifles built on the AR. I'd say a Ruger 10/22 to start (I think everyone should have one of these) and then move on up to the AR. Have fun, and welcome a little deeper into the gunny rabbithole!

At January 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM , Blogger Comfortably Numb said...

“Shot” in the historic sense were small (mostly) lead projectiles that were used in the earliest cannons and muskets. They were the original anti-personnel weapon. Shooting a single large projectile out of a cannon at a ship or castle wall works great at blowing large holes in large items. Shooting a lot of small projectiles out of a cannon over a wide area worked great at blowing small holes in large numbers of people. Very messy – but effective in the course of a war or revolting masses. Because of the highly inaccurate nature of the early muskets – “shot” was typically used because it only took a few small wounds to incapacitate most people. It was more effective than a single projectile.
As the weapons progressed – the shotgun got its name because it was able to fire a number of projectiles at your target (IMHO – others may disagree with how it got its name). It is much easier to shoot a bird in flight with a shotgun then it is a rifle. As the shot leaves the barrel it spreads out in an ever widening mass and increases the possibility of a hit/kill. As previous people have posted – the shotgun has the ability of shooting many different sizes of projectiles. Small projectiles (in large numbers per shot) for small birds – all the way to large projectiles (in small numbers per shot) for personal protection
Shotguns and their rounds are classified with a number. The smaller the number – the larger the shotgun bore or projectile size. (Huh????)
A 12 gage shotgun has a larger bore (diameter of the barrel) than a 20 gage. A 20 gage shotgun has a larger bore the a 410. Likewise a size 4 shot is larger than a size 9 shot. A 00 (double aught) shot is larger than a 4. Clear as mud yet? A shotgun shell can also have a single large projectile – usually called a slug.
A shotgun can also have a smooth barrel or a rifled barrel (others have covered this). Smooth bore barrels can also be “choked” – usually a twisting devise at the end of the barrel to make the shot pattern smaller or larger as it leaves the barrel, depending on what you are hunting or shooting at. You can also change the barrel on your shotgun based on what your needs/target are. So one shotgun with several interchangeable barrels and several sized shells (or rounds) can multitask (ala Alton Brown – let’s see how many gunnies get that reference) better than any single rifle or handgun.
A single shotgun can handle many more hunting/shooting options then a single rifle. Where you wouldn’t hunt for a squirrel with a 30-06 rifle – you can with a 12 gage shotgun with the proper shot #. Likewise you wouldn’t hunt for deer with a 22 – you can with that same 12 gage shotgun and a slug. Going to try bird hunting?? Yep – same shotgun, different shot size.
The same shotgun can be used for personal protection if loaded with double aught shells. There are not many sounds that can grab the attention of an intruder then the sound of a homeowner racking a round into his/her shotgun (pump action style). It will definitely get their attention and give them pause.

At January 7, 2012 at 1:13 PM , Blogger Comfortably Numb said...

Also - Found this neat breakdown on Wikipedia

It shows a clear plastic shell with the components (powder, shot, wads). Also gives a breakdown of the shot sizes and what you can hunt with each. Some pistol or rifle bullets are also made with shot for pest/snake protection.

At January 7, 2012 at 4:09 PM , Blogger GunDiva said...

Wow. I found this post and got on here all ready to help with an answer, but it looks like you're completely covered.

I will say, the most fun rifle I've ever owned, was a little .22 Henry Survival Rifle. Cheap to buy, cheap to shoot and SOOOOOOOOO much fun to plink with.

Love, love, love my shotgun as well, but it's a little more spendy to shoot than the .22.

At January 7, 2012 at 4:46 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Comfortably Numb, thanks. I was with you right up until the Very good info. I think I am starting to get it past the very basic info. I can not wait to shoot more long guns. I know that will help me.

GunDiva, thanks for stopping by. I love your blog. I love your story. I have heard a lot about the .22 and I am sure that is in my future. I love all the guns and power, but what I love the most is just to learn and to shoot.

At January 7, 2012 at 4:59 PM , Blogger Keads said...

Well- I WAS going to offer some pithy comments but others stepped forward before I got here. So much the better!

At January 7, 2012 at 8:25 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Alright, everyone answered this very, very well, but I talk a lot and can't leave without saying something.
Appleseed is going to teach you a lot about how to use a rifle. All of this will become internalized after you go through Appleseed and then shoot a shotgun.
The rifle is precision. Science even. There's a special zen to controlling your breathing and making that shot. Don't worry, you'll do great. I earned my rifleman patch on my very first Appleseed weekend. Just relax into the moment. This is why you will want a .22. Once you find that zone, you will want to get there again and again and again.
The shotgun is power. It's raw and it hits you back. And it is wonderful. I've got nothing else in my arsenal that blows off stress and steam like my 12 gauge. You aren't going to be making impressive groups on paper with a shotgun. You'll be obliterating watermelons. The pulp will come back and hit you in the face if you are at close range. It's visceral.
Handguns are the best and worst of both. You can get far more precise with a handgun than you can with a shotgun. But you can't touch rifle ranges with a handgun.

At January 7, 2012 at 9:38 PM , Blogger Critter said...

I see most of the basics have been covered already, so I'll add just a bit of obscurity to the pot: shooting rifles is a science; shooting shotguns is an art; shooting pistols is black magic.

Lots of good info here:

At January 8, 2012 at 2:30 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Thanks for the link Critter. Looks very cool.

At January 8, 2012 at 2:14 PM , Blogger selsey.steve said...

This is my very first visit here and I'm happy to be here, thanks for letting me in.
Guns. I've fired a very great variety of firearms and have come to one conclusion. First identify the task that you want the machine to perform. Next, identify the task which you want the projectile that you have just fired to achieve. The third consideration is the scenario in which you wish to achieve this task.
There is no perfect gun for all situations, just as there is no perfect projectile for every situation.
Mail me and I'll expound further. I'm a retired Police Officer with 30 years experience of shooting, with another 10 years of experience of hunting in Central Africa (where I grew up) before that. I'm also qualified to give ballistic evidence in a Court of Law.
I'll try my best to answer any query you might have.
My e-mail address should be attached to this comment. If not, I'm at

At January 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM , Blogger selsey.steve said...

Mail address not shown!

At January 8, 2012 at 3:04 PM , Blogger 45er said...

Wow, lots of useful information above. This is hard to put in a little comment post. I could spend an easy hour just talking to someone and explaining long-range rifles, intermediate range rifles and carbines, and shotguns. If you are really considering a shotgun, please research "length of pull". It is a major factor in felt recoil. It is essentially fitting the gun to you from the shoulder to the trigger and grip. It can make the difference between a 12 gauge that shoots like a dream and one that punishes you. It is especially important for women since most stocks that are put on long guns are made in a man's world. For rifles, an AR 15 with a 6 position collapsible stock is a great rifle to start with. You can adjust the stock to fit you comfortably and there is little recoil, so they are a ton of fun. Above all, enjoy yourself.

At January 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

45er, I am seriously considering buying a rifle so thank you for your advice. I will make sure I think about/ ask about that.

seller.steve, thanks! I was really asking for just a basic understanding, but very good advice. I say the same thing when asked about handguns. Thank you so much for offering to help me out!

At January 8, 2012 at 9:01 PM , Blogger Shy Wolf said...

Concerning the Appleseed, they 'encourage' useing a .22 rifle, recommending the Ruger 10-22, though any will work. Preferably a semi-automatic magazine fed rifle- and have at least two magazines for it because you'll need both. Three or four is better just to have 'back-ups'.
Though the .22 is preferred because of the distance and ease of shooting- low recoil and manageability- Appleseed does not discourage use of larger weapons/rifles. However, the cost of feeding them the 300 to 500 or more rounds you'll shoot will be much more exhorbitant than the .22. Whatever you choose, get a good sling for it and a scope, though a scope isn't 'required', it helps, especially with older eyes.
When you attend your Appleseed, be sure to bring a pad to lay on- lots or prone position shooting plus it's more comfy on the buns if the ground is wet or cold. Too, you will have a dry place on which to lay your rifle.
Also, bring plenty of food, snacks, water and other drinks, no booze, and sunscreen, warm clothes, and a chair. An umbrella may be handy as well since weather is not a consideration for an Appleseed. Rain, shine, sleet or snow, you'll put the mailman to shame, trust me.
One thing I wish I'd brought with my camera is an address book: you'll meet tons of wonderful people you'll want to correspond with later.
Go with the intention of lerning to shoot, but more, with the hope of making many new friends and have fun.
I don't have the link to Appleseed, but you can google it easily enough to get much more detailed information. (You probably already have their addy. ;) )

At January 9, 2012 at 5:37 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Shy Wolf, thank you. Wow, great tips. I appreciate it. Sean over at, is the one who organized and invited me to the Appleseed event and he has been great about helping me know what to do, but thank you very much for taking the time to lay out for me what you thin would be helpful. Really appreciate it!!!

At January 9, 2012 at 1:45 PM , Blogger Shy Wolf said...

You're welcome. Sean's a great guy and will insure everyone has a great time.

At January 10, 2012 at 5:08 AM , Blogger George said...

You should check out A whole series of videos answering just these types of questions. :)


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