What is a Bullpup Rifle?

What is a Bullpup Rifle?


Mathew R Reed
August 17, 2021

One look at the bullpup rifle and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s something that it’s not.

The compact and almost space-age appearance of these firearms can be misleading as they’re a lot more threatening than they look.

What is a bullpup rifle, though?

These rifles feature a unique configuration that features the action and magazine behind the trigger, and it uses a full-length barrel with a standard rifle round, but only a lot more compact.

They don’t just come in rifles either, as you can get bullpup submachine guns and shotguns as well.

These small but deadly packages have a lot going for them and they’ve become even more popular in recent times, and not just for military use.

This guide can help you dissect the bullpup rifle and all of its pros and cons, to see if it’s worthy of adding to your lineup.

What is a Bullpup?

A bullpup is a term used to describe a firearm that places the action and magazine behind the trigger and this configuration can be found in a number of gun types.

This layout allows for a whole lot of power from the gun and they measure up around the same size as a short-barreled rifle.

A bullpup’s configuration is such that it allows the barrel length to increase when compared to the length of the weapon overall, with lots of benefits to the user.

Although the bullpup rifle is the most common in this group, you can experience this layout with other types of guns, including submachine guns and shotguns.

When Was the Bullpup Invented?

A quick look at a bullpup rifle and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a relatively new invention. The almost space-age compact design is misleading though, as the first patent of this firearm was in 1901 in England.

The Thorneycraft carbine rifle weighed 10 percent less than UK military standard issue Lee-Enfield rifle, and it measured 7.5 inches shorter as well.

Although there were issues with this first iteration, like excessive recoil, it formed the basis for the next successful prototype in the 1960s, which came from Austrian gunmaker Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

This weapon, the StG 77, had a lot more success and was even employed by the Austrian army.

Its popularity is still present and it’s in production to this day, used as the standard-issue small arm of many armed forces in addition to Austria, including India, Australia, China, Israel, and the UK.

The term ‘bullpup’ is believed to reference bulldog puppies, as they were known to be ugly and compact, but still a powerful breed. This personifies what the bullpup is all about, whether it’s used as a rifle, shotgun, or any other firearm.

Pros and Cons of Using a Bullpup

Pros and Cons of Using a Bullpup

There’s no perfect gun out there for everyone, and a shooter needs to weigh up the pros and cons to see if a firearm can deliver what they need.

If you want to know the benefits and limitations of a bullpup rifle, check out their best and worst points to get a clearer picture.


  • The biggest benefit of a bullpup rifle is that you’re able to use a much shorter weapon without reducing the barrel length as well. This means you can conceal the weapon better and maneuver it more easily, especially when you’re in close quarters.
  • Moving the bullpup rifle to your shoulder takes less time which means a quicker reaction time, faster shot, and better chance you’re going to hit your target.
  • A bullpup rifle usually weighs less than its standard-sized counterpart which has benefits for the shooter as well, including less fatigue and easier handling.
  • The feel of a bullpup rifle is different as well, thanks to the center of mass being closer to the back of the gun. This means it’s closer to your core so it’s easier to handle and better suited to situations where you’re moving or running.
  • A bullpup rifle has the unique ability to transfer some of the recoil force to your shoulder. This helps with precision but also reduces the muzzle rise because there’s less room for it to move.


  • Using an iron sight with a bullpup rifle can be harder to do because your sight radius has been decreased, so it’s not always recommended.
  • If anything were to go wrong when using a bullpup rifle, the chance that the shooter would be more seriously injured or killed increase, because of its proximity to the head and neck.
  • Being this close to the action of a firearm means increased noise and potential irritation to the eyes and airways because of exhaust gas.
  • The feeling and response of a trigger on a bullpup rifle are stiff in comparison and some believe this affects its accuracy, at least until you’ve mastered the weapon and its differences.
  • To change the magazine of the bullpup rifle requires more work and it’s not possible to do a drop-free change because of its configuration. You’re also unable to get a direct view of the chamber and check its status.

Learning the Layout

Generally speaking, a bullpup rifle isn’t that different from its full-sized counterpart, but there are some differences. If you’re firing one of these for the first time, here are some things to consider about the configuration:

  • As the trigger is in a forward position and it has a longer trigger-sear linkage, you can expect this component to be a lot stiffer to pull. This part alone requires a lot of extra time to get used to.
  • The position of a bullpup rifle is also different and the action will sit closer to your face which might not be as comfortable.
  • Ejection of cartridges is unique and requires at least a little disassembly of the weapon first, especially when using a firearm with a reciprocating charging handle.

Is a Bullpup Rifle Right For Me?

Is a Bullpup Rifle Right For Me?

There’s no shortage of bullpup rifles out there to choose from and whether you want something for hunting or home defense, you should be able to find a compact but powerful solution in this configuration.

Even if you’re not interested in a rifle, you can still find the bullpup layout in other types of firearms as well.

Although predominantly a military-grade weapon, there are lots of variations to these rifles that make them suitable for other uses as well.

Additionally, you can add all of the standard accessories like optics and slings, and make adjustments to their power and capacity with the right choice of magazine.

The biggest benefit to using a bullpup rifle is its compact size and handiness, which makes it a lot more versatile than most weapons out there.

To determine if it’s right for you, you should consider what you plan on using it for and the pros and cons that this specific firearm offers.

Compact But Deadly

If your favorite firearm is a handy one, you’ll want to consider all of the advantages that a bullpup rifle could bring to the table.

These compact but powerful weapons combine the best of both worlds and once you’ve had a chance to fire one, you’ll see what all the fuss was about.

Related Questions

A bullpup rifle takes a classic design and makes it even better, so it’s worth testing one out for yourself if you’re looking for something new.

To learn more about the different types of rifles and their usage, we’ve answered a few FAQs that can expand your knowledge even further.

What Is a Bump Stock?

A bump stock is a mechanism of a rifle that causes the cause to move back and forth so the rifle can continue to fire rapidly.

When firing a weapon in this configuration, the shooter keeps their trigger finger in place while also applying forward pressure on the barrel and backward pressure on the pistol grip.

Is A Pistol Grip Rifle Legal?

A pistol grip that protrudes below the firearm but is not connected to the should stock is illegal in some states of the US, including New York, and is heavily regulated in others.

This is due to the ease of use it gives to the firearm and how it allows the shooter better control over their weapon.

What Is the Shortest Rifle?

A short-barreled rifle or SBR is the term given to a rifled, shoulder-fired firearm that has a barrel length less than 16 inches of total length less than 26 inches.

The SBR designation can also be applied to handguns, but they must have a buttstock and barrel that measures less than 16 inches in length as well.


Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of ArmorHoldings.com and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.