Humankind has created, developed, and improved hundreds and hundreds of methods and tools of killing the representatives of its kind.
However, there are not so many weapon systems to distinguish despite the variety of weapons on the planet. Weapons are very different in terms of size, targets they are aimed to destroy, forms, etc. Each weapon unit belongs to some weapon system: small arms, light weapons, and others. The following firearms can be addressed to small arms: hand-held arms using small-caliber rounds, such as pistols, shotguns, rifles, manual and automatic weapons, and machineguns carried by one person (submachine guns) (Smith, 1979).
All weapons are designed to fire a bullet that is part of around. Various mixes of powders are used to make a bullet fly from the barrel, would it be a shotgun or submachine gun, or a sniper rifle. They are designed for personal use. However, there are certain peculiarities of each weapon type that they can be recognized by. Size, location of various parts, the position of trigger, length of the barrel, type of rounds, and other, more specific characteristics and peculiarities can provide enough information to determine the type of weapon.
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Thus, a handgun (pistol) is a weapon designed for personal use that can be handled by one (or both) hands.
Therefore, it is rather a small firearm. The revolver or pistol systems are used in a handgun mostly. Less widespread subtypes are derringers, semi-auto pistols, and others. The main difference between revolver and pistol systems is the location of rounds. The pistol system has a feeder (cartridge clip), while the revolver system has a rotating cylinder that can carry up to six rounds. The design of a handgun can be different but most examples have a pistol handle, trigger, under the forefinger, and small barrel with different lengths. A cylinder that a revolver has can provide enough information to name this firearm a revolver.
A rifle is a firearm that was designed to be used by two hands to fire from the shoulder. It has a relatively long barrel with or without rifling. This allows distinguishing hunting rifles from the non-hunting rifle. There are different types of rifles that are used for hunting, warfare, and shooting activities (MilitatyFactory, 2013). There are automatic, semi-automatic, manual, and one-shot rifles. One-shot rifles usually have a long barrel for extra accuracy and are used for hunting. They do not have a cartridge or any storage for rounds inside, so the round is placed directly into the barrel and ejected manually. Manual, semi-automatic, and automatic rifles have storage for rounds in form of internal storage or special cartridge clip (MilitatyFactory, 2013).
Warfare rifles are usually semi-automatic or automatic due to the need for a high fire rate on the battlefield. Sniper rifles are manual or semi-automatic since their major purpose is to provide accurate and effective shots on very long distances. The length of the barrel is maximal, the type of rounds is different from the one used in hunting and assault rifles. Therefore, it is easy to determine what kind of weapon is in hands - a hunting rifle, automatic warfare rifle, or sniper rifle (MilitatyFactory, 2013).
A shotgun is similar to a rifle but it has usually a shorter and larger barrel that is needed to shoot with larger rounds. The caliber is different due to the different purposes of a shotgun - stopping power. It is usually used on short distances, by police and special forces for close-quarters combats within limited space (Canfield, 2004). The most usual shotgun has either inner storage or a special cartridge clip for several rounds. It can be used by both hands but not necessarily using the shoulder as a platform to shoot. There are many types of shotguns, including automatic, but most of them are manual or semi-automatic. Fire rate is not critical for this type of weapon.
Submachine guns are usually larger than regular rifles and can have more than one barrel. Famous minigun has six of them. The submachine gun is needed to provide the maximum fire rate on the battlefield with moderate accuracy. They are automatic and have special storages to be fed by a large number of rounds in automatic mode. The size and large cartridge clip can give information about this firearm type easily (MilitatyFactory, 2013).
As an example, AK-74 and AKSU-74 can be compared. They are both made on the base of AK-47, created by Kalashnikov. AK-47 has the following characteristics: 5.45×39mm round; 10.7 g (165 gr) cartridge weight; 30-round magazine @ 551 g (19.4 oz); 900 m/s (2,953 ft/s) bullet velocity; effective range about 600 meters; has different types of sights. AKS-74U is slightly different - it has foldable shoulder stock and it has a shorter barrel and shorter effective bullet velocity along with effective range (735m/s and 350 meters respectively) (McNab, 2001). The purpose of these two assault rifles is different so their characteristics fit it perfectly. AKS-74U is far more maneuverable so it can be used within limited space more effectively than AK-74 (McNab, 2001).
It was a particular example of two assault rifles, made on the base of the same model. In the case of comparison of an assault rifle and a shotgun, they have very different characteristics. Starting from the look and purpose and closing comparison with statistical data, they are different. The purpose is different so shotguns have shorter barrels, a larger caliber to be used, no cartridge clip in most cases, a slower fire rate, the accuracy that is a far more limited and effective range, different handling, and more to say different look.