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Three Main Parts of a Rifle: Firearm Basics [Explained]

Dakota Potts | Updated February 25, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Three main parts of a rifle cover photo showing two rifles facing different directions on a grey background

Rifles were invented around the 15th Century and have undergone major changes since then. However, the main parts haven’t changed much. Avoid looking like a greenhorn and read on as we cover the fundamentals of a rifle and how this firearm functions.

Up next see: the best 300 Win Mag rifles.

Parts of a Rifle and Their Functions

The three main parts of a rifle include the following:

The Action

The action is considered the heart of the firearm. It consists of a mechanism that loads, fires, and ejects the cartridges or shells from the rifle. 

So, firearms have different types of action, including lever action, bolt action, semi-automatic and pump action.

Bolt action rifles are the most reliable and simplest type of action. The shooter has to manually operate the bolt that moves the ammunition from the magazine to the chamber, then secures the bolt in place to fire the rifle.

Lever action rifles have a big metal lever behind the trigger. The lever cycles or rotates the ammunition through the action.

Semi-automatic rifles are just like the name suggests. They use part of the energy of the fired cartridge for cycling the action, enabling rapid firing. 

Lastly, we have pump action rifles which use a sliding pump to load and eject ammunition. 

The Barrel 

The barrel is a metal tube the bullet passes through once fired from a firearm. The diameter and length of a barrel can vary depending on the type of rifle. 

But generally, longer barrels provide greater velocity and accuracy, while shorter barrels are more maneuverable and compact. 

The inside of a barrel has spiral grooves that spin the bullet when fired, thus stabilizing it and aiding its accuracy and range. 

The barrel determines a rifle’s caliber. A caliber is the diameter of the bullet that a gun is meant to fire, and this can have a significant impact on the accuracy and power of a rifle. Most larger calibers produce more power and greater recoil. (Reference: 3 main parts of a rifle)


A rifle’s other main part is the stock you hold onto. It can be made of different materials, including wood, metal, and synthetic material. 

It’s essential as it gives the shooter a comfortable and stable grip. It also absorbs recoil after firing the rifle. 

Check out this video that goes into further detail about the main parts of a rifle:

Internal Parts of a Gun 

A gun consists of a few internal parts which work together to allow the firing of a bullet. Some of the most significant internal parts include the following: 

  • Magazine: This is the storage or container that holds the ammunition. It can be detachable or integral to the gun. It can also hold different numbers of bullets depending on the type of gun.
  • Hammer: This piece of metal strikes the firing pin to ignite the cartridge and fire the gun. 
  • Trigger: This part resembles a lever, and it’s the mechanism a shooter pulls to release the firing pin.

Other parts of a gun include the firing pin, bolt, and safety.

Pistols and an ar-15 and earmuffs on a bench

Which Part of the Rifle Initiates the Shot When It Is Moved?

The trigger is part of the rifle that initiates the shot when moved. When pulled, it activates the firing pin, which strikes the cartridge, thereby igniting gunpowder that propels the bullet out of the barrel.

For similar reading see our write up on correct rifle control.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What are the major parts of the rifle?

The major parts of the rifle are the action, barrel, and stock.

What 3 parts of the rifle are critical to firearm safety?

The three parts of the rifle critical to firearm safety include the safety, trigger, and barrel. 

What are the main parts of a shotgun?

Like a rifle, the main parts of a shotgun include the stock, barrel, and action. 

How many parts are there in a rifle? 

The number of parts in a rifle isn’t fixed. They will vary depending on the make and model.  


  1. Texas Parks and Wildlife, Chapter 2 – Firearms and Ammunition. Retrieved from https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/online-course/firearms-and-ammunition-1

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