gun vs rifle

Gun Vs Rifle

Ahhhh, the age-old gun vs rifle question: Is a rifle a gun? Is a gun a rifle? Is a gun or rifle better for home defense? So confusing! Don’t worry if you’re unsure, because we cover it in-depth, but also provide a simple way for you to remember the difference between guns and rifles.

Gun vs rifle: what’s the difference between a gun and a rifle? The main difference between a gun and a rifle is that a rifle is a gun that has the rifling, or grooves, in the barrel that causes the bullet to spin in the air, allowing it to travel further distances more accurately. A gun is a generic term for any long ranged weapon that projects a bullet or solid, liquid, or gas projectiles through a tube. One way to think of it is that all rifles are guns, but not all guns are rifles.

Now that you know the basic difference, read on to learn more about the relationship between guns and rifles!

What is a Gun?

In the most basic definition, a gun is a tubed device that utilizes pressure to launch a projectile.

This means that not all guns are weapons, such as water guns, pressure washers, air guns, etc. However these do have in common the mechanism of pressurization launching some sort of projectile. Water guns and pressure washers will launch water, air guns and BB guns will launch BBs or pellets, and firearms, the more traditional association that most have with guns, launch bullets or other forms of shot.

The average firearm uses high pressure gas that propels a bullet through the barrel from the use of combustion.

The parts of a gun consist of the action, stock, and barrel. These parts have several variations based on the type of gun. The action is where you load, fire, and eject the bullet. The stock is what provides support for the action and the barrel. The barrel is typically going to be rifled, which is when the inside of the barrel has grooves inside to cause the bullet to spin in the air, or it will be smoothbore, which is when the inside is smooth. 

Guns are typically breech-loaded, meaning that they are loaded at the end of the barrel, rather than being loaded from the front, as with muskets and cannons. 

Guns are meant to be used to shoot directly at an object at a high velocity. The arc of the bullet will be low and flat, allowing it to travel more accurately at longer ranges. 

Examples of guns are rifles, pistols, handguns, shotgun, etc. Some of these terms overlap a bit, much like rifles and guns. 

Gun characteristics:

  • Uses pressure to launch projectile
  • Comprises of action, stock, barrel
  • Breech-loaded
  • Low, flat arc 

What is a Rifle?

Remember, all rifles are guns, but not all guns are rifles. 

Rifles are a type of gun that has a long rifled barrel. A rifled barrel is a barrel with rifling, which means that it has a specific set of grooves in the barrel that forces the bullet to spin which increases the accuracy and distance of the bullet. Grooves in a barrel are typically in a spiral or helical pattern. Rifling was originally just used to refer to the process of using cutting tools to create grooves in metals. Due to the popularity of the word β€œrifle” being associated with this specific type of gun, rifle has been nearly exclusively used to identify the weapon now.

Rifles use combustible propellants to project the bullets from their barrels. Due to the rifling in the barrel, the bullet has enough of a spin to keep it from changing direction vertically and horizontally. This rifling keeps the bullet on a more accurate and long-distance trajectory. 

Rifles are intended to be used with two hands or a front support as they are longer guns. Rifles are also meant to be aimed and fired with the stock at the shoulder, to provide support and reduce recoil. Due to their size and support requirements, rifles are best to be fired at stationary targets. 

Historically rifles were only able to shoot a single bullet, but modern rifles can fire several rounds. 

Rifle characteristics:

  • Long rifled barrel
  • Greater accuracy
  • Greater distance
  • Requires two hands or a front support
  • Held at the shoulder
  • Shoot at stationary targets
  • Can shoot several rounds

Gun Vs Rifle: How To Tell The Difference

The main difference between a rifle and another type of gun will be the barrel, the type of support, and how it is meant to be held.

A rifle will be a type of gun that has a rifled barrel with those telltale grooves that provide more accuracy. Rifles, however, are not the only type of gun that has rifling in its barrel so this is not the only criteria to tell the difference between a rifle or another gun.

In addition to rifling, a rifle is meant to be used with two hands or some other type to support due to the length of the gun. This is likely one of the easier ways to quickly identify whether or not a gun is a rifle. However, not all long guns are rifles, so this is also not the only criteria to base the difference off of, but it is the most easily recognized. For example, large guns, like cannons, may be long, but they are not generally considered rifles. 

Last, rifles are meant to be held with the stock at the shoulder to prevent injury from recoil. This is also likely going to be the case with most long guns so this criteria is very similar to the use of two hands. 

Using all three of these criteria you can be able to tell a rifle apart from any other type of gun or specifically identify a gun as a rifle.

Ways to tell the difference:

  • Type of barrel
  • Number of hands to support
  • Location of where it is held

Gun Versus Rifle Cost Differences

There are so many types of guns so it is hard to narrow down a price comparison between a rifle and any other type of gun.

The breakdown of average prices and price ranges on different types of rifles and guns is as follows: on average a hunting rifle will cost around $700; revolvers can cost between $300-$1000; 9mm pistols can cost between $250-$400. Depending on the quality, brand, and overall value of the firearm, there will generally always be a range, making it difficult to have an effective price comparison. 

Rifle vs Gun: Which is best to buy?

Price alone will not necessarily be helpful in making a decision on which to buy. Because there are so many types of guns it is hard to compare them based on cost. If you were to make a decision on whether to buy a rifle or another type of gun, you would likely need to identify the purpose of the gun first as some firearms are better suited for different needs, such as practicing at a gun range or hunting.

Take the time to consider what you will be using your firearm for. If you plan to go hunting, look more towards rifles. If you wish to shoot at moving targets, such as clay pigeons, look more towards shotguns. If you plan on going to the shooting range or if you are looking for a gun for protection, consider different types of handguns or pistols. From there you can consider price differences among the same types of firearms. Focusing on the purpose of the gun rather than the price will help you in whatever task for which you are seeking to use the gun. 


What is the Difference Between Gun and Rifle?

A gun is a general term referring to any barrelled weapon designed to discharge projectiles. Rifles are a specific type of gun characterized by a rifled barrel, designed to spin the projectile for improved accuracy and distance.

Is the Rifle a Gun?

Rifles are a category of guns, distinguished by their long barrels with rifling, which imparts a spin to the projectile, enhancing stability and accuracy during flight. Thus, all rifles are guns, but not all guns are rifles.

Which is Better, Gun or Rifle?

The suitability of a gun or rifle depends on the intended use. Rifles offer superior accuracy and range, making them ideal for hunting and sharpshooting, while other types of guns like handguns may be preferred for their portability and convenience in close-quarters scenarios.

What Makes a Gun a Rifle?

A gun becomes a rifle when it has a long, rifled barrel that imparts a spin to the projectile for enhanced accuracy. Additionally, rifles typically have a shoulder stock and are intended for two-handed operation, making them distinct from other types of guns.

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