The Basic Parts of A Handgun

The Basic Parts of A Handgun


Mathew R Reed
August 27, 2021

The handgun is a favored choice among everyone from civilians to law enforcement, and these small but mighty devices and prided for their simplicity.

However, learning the basic parts of a handgun is important for any owner of one, and once you see what makes them work, you’ll realize how in-depth they can be.

What are the basic parts of a handgun?

A pistol or semi-automatic handgun is the most common firearm in the handgun category and it refers to a gun that has one chamber integral with the barrel.

The most important parts that make these weapons up are the action, frame, and barrel, but there are others worth learning, too.

The best way to master your weapon is to understand what makes it operate, so we’ve compiled this guide to show you how your handgun works.

With a list of its most important parts and their roles, you’ll be able to troubleshoot issues and have better success when it comes time to use your firearm.

What Are the Parts of A Handgun?

A semi-automatic handgun or pistol is arguably the most common type, and easily distinguishable from a revolver thanks to a few key components.

If you own a pistol or are interested to learn what makes them work, we’ve compiled a list of their most important features.



The action is undoubtedly the most important part of any gun, as it’s where most of the work is done.

Included in the action are all of the parts that load and unload, fire the gun, and expel the empty case.

The action can also determine what type of firearm it is and is where guns get their categories like automatic or semi-automatic.


The frame of a handgun is the part that rests in your palm as you’re holding the gun and it’s considered the housing for all of the other important components.

Most frames are made of metal and the rest of the parts are either attached to the outside or secured inside of the frame, so it needs to be durable.


The barrel is an integral part of every firearm as it’s the cylindrical tunnel that the bullet moves through before it’s fired into the air.

In a handgun, propellants, and gases force the bullet out of the barrel with a lot of pressure, and the makeup and construction of the barrel will have a major impact on what happens next, as well as the velocity and accuracy it has.


This is the part of any gun that holds the cartridges until they’re ready for action, quite literally.

A magazine can look different and be positioned uniquely on a gun, including a detachable external one or a part that’s been built into the firearm itself.

Although commonly mistaken for a clip, the role of the magazine is to feed the ammo into the weapon, whereas a clip helps to feed the magazine.

Magazine Well

Magazine Well

This important part is responsible for securing the magazine to the firearm and locking it into place and is sometimes referred to as a ‘magwell’.

Without the magazine well, the ammunition wouldn’t be able to feed into the chamber in the right position.

These parts come as standard on a handgun but you do have the option to upgrade to one that reloads faster.


The receiver has a literal name as it refers to the part of the handgun that receives the ammunition.

This is a larger component that houses other important parts like the action, hammer, and whatever firing mechanism the handgun uses.


Although technically attached to the frame of the gun, the grip is a separate and important part that has two major functions.

Firstly, the pistol’s grip is where you hold onto the weapon, and secondly, it’s where the magazine is housed when you look inside of the gun.

Slide and Slide Stop

As the name suggests, the slide is the part that slides back and forward as the gun goes through its operating cycle.

The slide stop is where the slide is locked into place after the bullet has been fired.

These two parts are common on most semi-automatic pistols but not all of them, so check the owner’s manual to see if yours has one.

Extractor and Ejection Port

Extractor and Ejection Port

Once the cartridge has been fired, this part is responsible for removing the casing out of the chamber.

It then shoots it through an ejection port, which is an opening that allows the casing to be expelled from the gun.


The sight is a common part of all firearms and when dealing with a handgun, you’ll usually find one at the front and the rear.

The purpose of this part is to help the shooter line up their shot, which means getting the front sight post aligned with the rear sight and then lining them up with the target you hope to shoot.

Sights come in many different types including made of iron, fiber optic, or polymer depending on the specific features you hope to gain from it.


Many firearms come with a safety and this mechanism is an important feature to keep your firearm from firing when it’s not meant to.

The safety could be made of a button or a sliding mechanism, and its role is to lock into place so the trigger can’t be pulled.

Depending on the handgun you own, the safety could be an internal or external mechanism so you need to learn the specifics of your weapon.

Firing Pin

Firing Pin

The firing pin is the part that will pierce the cartridge inside of the gun which leads to the primer exploding.

As it does, the propellants will be released and eventually eject the bullet out of the chamber.


The hammer is responsible for striking the firing pin which will ultimately lead to the bullet being fired, but it might also only do this with some slight contact, depending on the gun.

As it strikes, the process responsible for firing the weapon will begin, so it’s an important component.

Takedown Lever

This lever is mounted to the firearm and is responsible for retaining parts like the slide and barrel.

You’ll need to utilize the takedown lever if you’re ever disassembling the gun otherwise these parts can’t be removed.

Trigger and Trigger Guard

The trigger is the key to making all of the other parts work and it’s activated by pressing your finger onto it. Once pressed, the firing sequence kicks off and all the rest of the firearm gets going.

A trigger guard is in place to prevent your finger from being close to the trigger and accidentally setting it off, and one of the key teachings of gun safety is knowing to keep your finger off of it until you need to fire it.

The Handgun Basics

The first step for any potential handgun owner should be learning the parts that make it up their weapon and studying the manual that comes with it.

With a better grasp of its components, you’ll know how to operate it safely and effectively, as well as troubleshoot any potential issues that come your way.

Related Questions

Learning the minor differences between the types of handguns is hard enough, so getting an understanding of the various parts that set them apart can help.

If you still have questions about the weapons within the handgun category, we’ve answered some commonly asked ones that might be able to help.

What is the Most Popular Handgun?

In the United States, there are a handful of guns that are considered the most popular thanks to their reliability and size.

The Glock 19, Ruger GP100, Springfield XD, Sig Sauer P365, and Kel-Tec PMR-30 are just some of the firearms that make the list, ranging from compact to full-size firearms.

What is the Most Common Handgun Caliber?

The 9mm round is considered the most popular caliber for handguns in the US and the rest of the world.

This cartridge is preferred because of its low recoil, affordable price, availability, and they work with handguns that have a high capacity which means you get more bullets ready to use.

What Handgun Is Used by Navy SEALs?

The Navy SEAL’s official sidearm is the Sig Sauer P226 handgun, sometimes referred to as the Mk. 25, but there may be plans to transition to the Glock 19 in the near future.

The P226 is a full-sized handgun that was derived from the popular P10 from Sig Sauer model, and it has been through three generations during its time with the Navy.


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 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.