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Types of Firearm |
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Types of FirearmIf you're reading this, then you're probably wondering what the best weapon to have come z-day is. Before you read onwards, remember that the best gun to have come z-day is the one you have, and know how to use. If you're looking to maybe buy another one, or just want to know a little more, please read on.
Smaller than a rifle, lighter than a rifle, and sometimes easier to use than a rifle, handguns may at first appear to be the quintissential zombie protection device. However, several things need to be considered when choosing a handgun, including but not limited to the standard ammunition weight and availabilty, ease of use and familiarity, and what it will be used for.
When it comes to handgun ammunition weight, obviously the smaller the round the less it will weigh. However, it is important to consider that while a handgun cartridge is overall shorter than a rifle cartridge, they are often denser, meaning that while fifty rounds of nine by nineteen millimeter may take up the same amount of space as twenty rounds of .223 Remington, they are going to weight almost fifty percent more.
Availability of ammunition is much the same as with hunting rounds for rifles - there are going to be more of the common calibers. However, buyer beware, in the epic commercial struggle to find the perfect handgun cartridge and sell it, a single "Caliber" may have multiple different rounds associated with it. For example, the ".38" caliber has no less than six different cartridges associated with it, which would not be interchangeable. It is also a good idea to note that .44 Special and .44 Magnum are not the same cartridge, and are full all intents and purposes of safety, interchangeable.
The common, and most easily attainable handgun cartridges are as follows:
.380 ACP (Or the 9mm Short, Browning, Kurz, Corto, or 9x17 - They're all the same)
9x19mm Parabellum (Also called '9mm Luger')
.38 Special/ .357 Magnum
.44 Remington Magnum
.45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol)
Ease of use/familiarity comes, of course, from practicing with the weapon. The ups and downs of each type of pistol will be gone into later. The use of the handgun, in the case of zombies, would be self-defense. I will go into what this means in 'Choosing a Handgun'.
Now to review the different types of handguns!
Main ypes of Handguns:
Revolvers are the the oldest form of multiple shot handgun, exotic multiple-barreled short muskets aside. A handgun is easily identified as a revolver due to the cylinder, a revolver unique part that holds the cartridges.
This is an excellent picture of a revolver with the cylinder out. The hammer is visible at the top right of the gun. Note that it is a swing-out cylinder.
There are two basic types of revolver action: Single and double. A single-action revolver requires that the user cock the hammer before every shot (Meaning they need to use their thumb to pull it back), which lends itself to accuracy. A double-action revolver can be fired simply by pulling the trigger, however, and most double-action revolvers can be used in a single-action manner as well. Remember, single actions can only be used one way, double actions can be used both ways.
After this split between single and double-action, there is also the manner that the revolver is reloaded. There are three basic types of cylinder - fixed, top break, and swing out. A fixed cylinder does not leave the revolver in any way, and reloading is either done by manually removing and loading the cylinder, or via a loading gate towards the rear. It is a very tedious and slow manner of reloading. A top break cylinder is one in which the revolver splits in half at the back of the cylinder and the hammer, staying attached only by a screw or joint. This exposes the back of the cylinder for reloading. A swing out cylinder is the most common cylinder type in modern revolvers, and is one in which the cylinder can be swung out after the pressing of a mechanical device. This is the easiest to use, if not necessarily the fastest.
A revolver has many upsides, including that while it does still require maintenance, it requires much less. They are very reliable, and generally small, and won't jam. However, they can still malfunction; be if from excessive fouling on a few tightly fit cylinder, to an actual breakage of the action itself. Even so, they do not suffer the same type of jams as automatic firearms and are generally less picky about ammo. However, the downside is that reloading takes longer than with a semi-automatic even with practice.
Different types of revolver are loaded and fired in various ways.
Fixed cylinder weapons will have a loading gate of some kind. Move the door out of the way, then punch the ejector rod. (nearly always under the barrel) Return the rod after the case is ejected, rotate the cylinder, and repeat until empty. Insert the fresh rounds through the gate and close the door when the cylinder is full.
Break open weapons typically have their release catch near their barrel. The barrel and cylinder is hinged forward. Typically the cylinder will automatically eject the rounds. Insert fresh rounds and pivot the cylinder and barrel back onto the frame.
Swing out wheel guns will have some kind of cylinder release, typically behind the cylinder on the left side. Pop out the cylinder and firmly smack the ejector rod, which runs out of the front of the cylinder. Snubbies and compact wheel guns may have shorter rods that make this step difficult. Load the cylinder them manually lock it back into the frame. DO NOT flick it with your wrist.
Semi-automatics are much more recent than revolvers, and are lauded for their ability to fire much faster, with much faster reload times. They are the stereotypical handgun of the media. A handgun is a semi-automatic when the energy from one shot is used to load the next cartridge - I.E. the recoil from the shot pushes the slide back, which ejects the empty casing and loads the new one upon sliding back forwards. In case you live in a cave and don't watch television or play videogames, this is a semi-automatic handgun:
The slide is the long piece at the top that runs the length of the gun, the hammer is the piece sticking out the back, the safety is just in front of the hammer, and the magazine release is visible just behind the trigger.
Unlike with revolvers, there are not even one or two importantly different actions - all normal semi-automatic handguns have a recoil or gas utilizing action and take a magazine (Clip) unique to the particular type of hand gun.
While it is easier to reload a semi-automatic in the heat of combat, and while they have increased rates of fire, these can work together to be very bad. For example, if you take with you into combat a magazine in your handgun, plus three extras, and then shoot through them all, you suddenly find yourself out of easy ways to reload, short of filling all the magazines again.
To load a semi-automatic, hit the magazine release switch (usually above the trigger), which will cause the magazine to fall out. Take a fresh magazine and place it open side up into the empty magazine well until it clicks. If necessary, pull the slide back all the way and let it snap forward to load the first round. Also if necessary, pull back the hammer on the back of the slide to cock it. Newer guns, such as the Glock series, do not require this. Lugers, for the few who find them, are slightly different. To cock a Luger, take the round metal parts on the back of the gun and pull them back and up, then let it fall.
If you come across a very old autoloader, such as a Mauser, it may require loading from a stripper clip, much like a bolt-action rifle. Take the clip (a metal strip with the cartridges attached to one side) and firmly lock it against the back of the open action with the cartridges facing forward. Use your thumb to push down on the cartridges and push them into the magazine. Remove the empty clip and cock the gun as normal. Rounds can also be loaded one at a time by opening the bolt and pushing them in.
It is also important to realize that semi-automatics are more complex than revolvers, and because of this require more frequent and intensive maintenance and can jam/malfunction (This is not to say that revolvers are angels, however). There are many times of malfunctions, and different ways to clear them.
In case of a misfeed, where a round falls to chamber, or a stovepipe jam, where an empty cartridge case is caught in the slide while being ejected, use the "tap, rack, flip" method: Firmly slap the bottom of the magazine with the flat of your palm, turn the gun so the slide is facing to the right and down, and rack the slide like normal to eject the round and feed the next one.
A double-feed or feed-way stoppage, referred to as the "mother of all malfunctions", is caused when more than one round loads. This can take up to five seconds at best to clear, and should only be cleared if time permits; otherwise, switch weapons. To clear it, lock the slide back by pulling the slide back and pressing the slide release switch, then hit the magazine release switch (the magazine will NOT fall out). Pull the magazine out manually and forcefully pull the slide back three times, then load and cock the weapon as normal.
An out-of-battery jam is caused when the slide fails to move all the way forward. This often happens with cheap, weak ammunition or an unclean action, or if you move the slide forward manually while cocking the gun instead of letting it snap forward on its own. Usually cleaning the gun thoroughly or using different ammunition will prevent this, but if it happens in a clean gun with proper ammo and firing, this is often a serious malfunction and a new gun or extensive repair may be required.
If the gun fails to fire, there may be a few reasons. A "squib load" is caused when weak gunpowder fails to fire the bullet out of the gun. If this occurs, remove the magazine and immediately remove the obstruction. A hangfire is a very dangerous malfunction when the gunpowder smolders before detonating. Do not attempt to clear this unless your life is at risk by not having a weapon; there is a high chance that the round will eventually fire, likely when not pointed at a target. If the firing pin or another part of the gun breaks and prevents the gun from firing, you must immediately switch to a different weapon or make a hasty tactical withdrawl (retreat!); the gun is useless unless repaired.
The last thing to remember is that a semi-automatic, due to its increased complexity, takes more time to figure out how to use.
Choosing a Handgun - Which is right for me?
When choosing a handgun there are several important things to consider. What type of environment do you live in? How easy is it to find a time and place to practice? What will you be using your handgun for? How much are you willing to spend on the handgun or ammunition?
The environment is important because it may decide which handgun type would be better for you - A rural setting with open spaces and fewer people may be better for a revolver, because the open spaces and less-concentrated populaces mean that the slower reloading may not necisarilly be a problem. However, in a heavily crowded urban environment a semi-automatic may be better for getting out of those "Sticky situations." But don't let environment alone sway your decision!
Do you have easy access to facilities where you can practice? If you don't, and if your use will more than likely be limited to when you're shooting at somebody, or a used to be somebody, then a revolver may be a better choice, because revolvers store better and really are "Point and shoot".
Will you be using the handgun as a back-up, or a primary weapon? Will you be clearing buildings with it? Will you need to use it for hunting? If your handgun is going to be a primary weapon, then a semi-automatic may be a better choice, if not just for their superior rate of fire. If you'll be clearing buildings with your handgun, then maybe a revolver would be a better choice, simply because jamming it into something fleshy and firing repeatedly is not an issue. However, remember that revolvers generally won't mount flashlights due to the lack of a picatinny rail. If you think you will be hunting with your handgun, then a revolver would be the better option, simply because revolvers offer more powerful ammunition choices. However, hunting is the only reason to consider a revolver beyond .38 caliber for zombie purposes, as any larger and the ammunition becomes scarcer, much heavier, and harder to shoot. A .44 Magnum is iffy enough, and a .464, .480, or .500 round has no real necessity in the world of zombies. It may even just get you killed.
And, of course, how much are you willing to spend? A reasonable semi-automatic starts at around four hundred dollars, same with revolvers. However, some of the smaller semi-automatic calibers are cheaper to buy, while the only comparable revolver round would be the .357Mag/.38 Special (For clarification, these two rounds are of the same size, but a .357 Magnum is longer, and thus more powerful. Don't shoot a .357 round in a revolver marked .38 special.)
But, what if I come across a handgun during Z-day? How do I tell what caliber it is?
So, suppose you're walking along during Z-day, a relatively zombie free part of town. It's just you, your two buddies who managed to make it with you, and three other survivors you found who managed to survive for a week by hiding in a closet. In terms of weapons, your three new found survivors have between them, say, a rock, and maybe a stick, and if you're lucky, a roll of duct tape. So, needless to say, you've got your eyes open for a new gun or two for your new packmules - I mean, friends.
Then, walking down the street, you come to a familiar sight - a police cruiser, battered all to hell, with the all too familiar sight of dried blood all over the pavement around it, and the completely eaten out beyond revival remains of about ten people - a last stand, and probably only two of them were cops. So, after putting a rag to your face to shut out that god awful smell you sidle up to see if there's anything interesting lying around.
And, lo and behold, there are four handguns lying around - two revolvers and two semi-automatics, and praise the lord - they're in great condition. But, let's be honest - the only reason you know the calibers of your own guns is because you bought them, so how do you tell what caliber these guns are?
Well, you have several options in a situation like this, depending on time constraints.
The first option at your disposal is to unload the guns - remove the magazines and open the cylinders. If you're lucky there will be fired or unfired shells in the revolvers, and maybe a round or two left in the semi-automatics. If there are rounds in the guns then you want to look at the shell's headstamp in order to identify the type. Here's a picture of several headstamps (Roll them over for the useful descriptions):
Now, this is all fine and dandy, but as we've seen, this can be a problem if there is no brass or if it says something vague like "9mm", or simply says nothing at all. This brings us to option two.
Option two is a much more reliable, much safer way to tell what caliber the pistol is. However, you might want to save it for when you have more time. What you do is you take the gun, and you look the whole thing over, because printed somewhere on it is the caliber. Simple, right? Yea, pretty much. Here's a few examples (Don't forget to roll 'em over):
Long guns are what many people think of when they think of a "Gun". They are everything from hunting rifles to the hefty Squad Automatic Weapons in the world's militaries, and are much like people. They're big, they're small, they're short, they're long, and so on and so forth.
When considering what sort of long gun to acquire, you should first look at several things: What am I going to use this for (Room clearing or open fields, hunting or zed killing)? How available and common is the ammunition? How much am I willing to spend? What sort of power do I want in it?
With this last question, there is undoubtedly a variety with rifles more diverse than with pistols. Rifle rounds and shotgun rounds can be more than powerful enough to kill a person, and even a large animal. Or they can be vastly underpowered. A quick list of common long gun calibers is right here, smallest to largest:
.223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
.308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO
.410 Gauge shotgun shell
20 Gauge shotgun shell
12-Gauge shotgun shell
Aside from an even larger variety of calibers and overall physical size, long guns differ from pistols in one big way: The variety of actions. There are different actions in the world of long guns, and I've got a handy list of the most common ones right here:
Manual Action Types (You have to do stuff to chamber every round):
Automatic Action Types (A force created by the previous round is used to chamber the following):
Most bolt-action rifles are sturdy, and they are very easily recognizable by the bolt that sticks out to the right hand side. They are most commonly rifles, although there are a few bolt-action shotguns in existence. Here's a handy dandy picture of a bolt-action firearm with nice labels and everything:
The bolt handle sticking out the right side is THE way to distinguish this action type. Bolt action rifles do often have magazines in this day and age, but they are not usually conventional removable magazines as with many semi-automatic weapons. Instead, they are loaded via a 'stripper clip', which is pretty much just a small strip of metal that holds the rounds so that you may push them into the magazine at your convenience. A nice picture is provided below:
The upside to bolt-action rifles is that they are generally cheap to acquire, are fairly accurate and easy to operate, and come in a wide variety of calibers. In the hands of someone who has practiced often they only suffer a slight firing rate dis-advantage, and if they accept stripper clips then loading isn't too much of an issue.
However, they are often large and heavy, and definitely not ideal for room clearing.
Fast loading than most manual long guns
Large ammunition is heavy
Often heavy and unwieldy
Reload can be slow
Pump-action guns are most commonly shotguns, though some are rifles. They are operated by, well, pumping the fore end back, and then forwards, which ejects the previous round and loads a new one. Here's a handy dandy picture:
Note the magazine tube. Most pump-action weapons have a Magazine Tube, which is exactly what it sounds like - a tube that holds the rounds. It is loaded one round at a time, through the nicely labeled Magazine Loading Port.
Another thing to note with pump-actions, namely the shotguns, is that they normally only have a front sight, which makes aiming a little more difficult than with conventional sights.
The up-side to pump-action weapons is that you definitely can't burn through ammunition as fast as with other weapons, and they are often very powerful. A clear downside, however, is the loading. To avoid mishaps while loading it is recommended that you practice loading often, and acquire a pouch or bandolier specifically for holding shells.
Not too slow firing
Larger set of uses compared to other weapons
Powerful up close
Often heavy and unwieldy
Large caliber ammunition is heavy
Lever-action rifles are the stereotypical "Western" rifles. They are identifiable by the lever just behind the trigger where the other three fingers are kept. They work like a bolt-action or pump-action in that a movement by the shooter chambers the next round. They are, however, more like shotguns in the respect that they do not take detachable magazines, but tubular magazines that run along the underside of the barrel. They are loaded through the loading gate, which is the depression on the side of the rifle.
Lever-actions definitely don't suffer from a rate of fire disadvantage, but loading them is the tricky part. Shells can be dropped or misplaced. To help avoid this it is recommended that loading is practiced often, and a specialized pouch or bandolier should be acquired for ammunition, if this will indeed be your weapon of choice.
Can be very compact
Speedy shooting, but still accurate
Ammunition types are often large, meaning heavier bullets, which means less can be carried.
Loading needs to be practiced often, can be slow.
Break-open rifles and shotguns are what you might imagine the stereotypical rich Englishman as having for his safari trip or skeet shooting. They generally have two barrels, either over-under or side-by-side. They work by using the release to 'break' it open, exposing the fronts of both barrels, and manually inserting the rounds. Break-open rifles are more often than not made for high power rounds, such as would be used to literally take down an elephant or rhino, or for shotgun rounds such as the 12-gauge or .410.
If you are very proficient with your break-open weapon, then it can easily hold its own in a light to medium zombie encounter. As with the pump-action and lever-action, it is recommended that you try to acquire a pouch or bandolier in which to hold your ammunition, or else you could find yourself searching pockets at a less-than-ideal time.
Wider range of uses compared to other rifles
Slow fire rate
Loading can be difficult and slow
Muzzle-Loading rifles shouldn't really be considered when the zombies attack, but for purposes of fair coverage are listed here. The way a muzzle-loading rifle works is you take a powder charge, stick that in the barrel, and then put a bullet in after it, and then jam the whole thing down with a special stick.
These should be the last resort weapons of all last resort.
Here's a picture of one!
...Accuracy, with the new ones.
Mother of God, they're slow to load.
(A quick note here: "Automatic Weapons" does not mean military grade, full-automatic rifles that can blaze away at seven bajillion rounds a minute. It means rifles that, with one pull of the trigger, fire one round. They are very generally perfectly legal in several countries, if not all of them. If they're not legal in yours, too bad. It's not the end of the world, as a lever-action rifle can be just as good in a pinch, if you know how to use it well enough. So, now that I've said this, no whining about how "Well, it's not a civilian weapon because it looks like it should be in the military" or "because I can't get one." Stop, people. Just stop.)
Well, I did say I was going to talk about the action types, even though the more important part of automatic weapons is the combat classification... So, here goes.
First, we have the recoil operated weapons. These work by sheer force of the firing reaction, in which the bolt is pushed backwards, ejecting the round, and loading a new one on the way back.
Then we blowback operated weapons, in which powerful springs keep the bolt pushed forwards, until the force of the round being fired pushes it back.
Finally, we have gas-operated weapons, in which gases from the weapon's firing are redirected back to operate the bolt.
So there we have it. Now, onwards, to the other stuff!
Automatic rifles are the biggest of the automatic weapons. They are full-sized, take the largest rounds, and weigh the most. With this comes maximum stopping power and reasonable accuracy, as well as weapons that are often awkward to maneuver and difficult to tote around all day. Here, an Automatic rifle is defined as a "Semi-automatic rifle that fires full sized (Thirty caliber or larger) rounds".
Three good examples of automatic rifles are the SVD, the H&K G3, and the M14, shown below.
Note that these vary widely in stock type, magazine size, etc. For example the G3 has a collapsible stock, and the M14 doesn't have a pistol grip, and the SVD (You can't actually tell this from the pictures... My Bad...) only has a ten round magazine, compared to the twenty round magazines on the others. These things don't matter, because it is the size and power of the round (7.62x54R,.308 NATO,7.62x39) and the fact that it is an automatic action.
Automatic rifles can come in handy in situations that require some rapid, accurate, long-distance firepower, but are more practical as man killing weapons than zombie killing weapons due to the size (And therefor, weight) of the rounds involved.
They'll kill zombies and people, and way the hell out there, too.
Magazine fed, often 20rd magazines
High rate of fire
I suppose this is the section that everyone can't wait to get to, just because it's about assault rifles. Well, I can't blame you, kiddies. The things are just freakin' cool. But at the same time, it's good to realize that come Z-day they're worthless to you unless you really know how to use and maintain them. Not to mention that they're outnumbered a bajillion to one by all the other weapon types out there.
Now, assault rifles only differ from automatic rifles (Also known as battle rifles) in that they fire a less powerful round. Hoewever, this may be very helpful in a zombie world, as less powerful means smaller, and smaller means lighter, not to mention that more rounds can be fitted into the magazines. For this matter, the rifles themselves are slightly smaller and lighter.
Good examples of assault rifles are the often debated and bickered over M16 and AK47 platforms (pictured below in respective order). They are slightly smaller than the average battle rifle, and take a less powerful cartridge, smaller cartridge.
Magazine fed, 30+ rounds per magazine
High rate of fire
Lighter ammunition, especially with rounds like the .223 Remington/5.56mm means a lot more can be carried.
Still just on the bad side of heavy, unwieldy
Carbines are like Assault rifles, but even smaller. They take the same rounds, but are physically smaller, meaning that they're absolutely great for building clearing and such activities. There isn't much else to say here, other than that they're smaller than assault rifles. Excellent for urban combat!
Small, light, compact
Small, light ammunition
Magazine fed, 30+ rounds
High rate of fire
Sub-machine guns are short, like carbines, except that they use pistol ammunition. A well known example of a sub-machine gun is the H&K MP5. These weapons are often very light and compact, and are excellent for urban combat, but not for much else.
Smallest, lightest, compactest (Is that really a word?)
High rate of fire
Magazine fed, varies widely
Effective about as far as you can hit a baseball, if you really suck at baseball.
Pistol rounds are, surprisingly enough, heavier than rifle rounds a lot of the time, and thus, well, weigh more
Less powerful than rifle rounds
Insert the magazine into the magazine well. Pull back the slide, and release. Ready to fire.
Push the cylinder release latch (located right behind the cylinder) back or forward, depending on the gun. Hold the gun upright to eject the shell casings. If you have a speedloader, insert that into the back of the cylinder, turn the speedloader's knob, and pull away. If you do not, insert the bullets one by one. Push the cylinder back into place. Ready to fire.
Note: If it is a single-action revolver, pull back the hammer before each shot.
To operate a bolt-action rifle is fairly easy.
First, grip the bolt with your right hand, and pull up, and then back.
Then load the rifle, either a single round at a time or with a stripper clip designed specifically for the rifle. If you looted the rifle you'll probably have to do it the slow way.
Now push the bolt forwards, and then down.
All that's left now is to aim and shoot.
To operate a pump-action is as easy as using a bolt-action rifle.
First, load it through the loading port one round at a time.
Second, grip the fore end tightly and pull back towards yourself forcefully.
Now, push it back, forcefully.
To operate a lever-action rifle, first load it via the loading gate on the side, one round at a time. Once the tubular magazine is full, use your trigger hand and push down on the lever until you can no longer push it. Then, pull back all the way until the action snaps closed. Now all you need to do is fire.
Push the release to break open. Insert a round into each barrel. Close. Fire. Wasn't that easy?