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Chapter 8: Semi Automatic Weapons 101

For those who don’t know much about firearms, there are common misconceptions and unknown facts about semi-automatic weapons. To help you learn more about these kinds of guns, how they work, and tips on improving marksmanship, our team shares everything you need to know about semi-automatic weapons in this comprehensive guide.

What Is a Semi-Automatic Weapon?

There’s a reason a semi-automatic weapon is also referred to as a self-loading or autoloading gun. A firearm is considered “semi-automatic” when it uses the force of recoil or blowback to automatically eject the empty case and reload another round that is ready to shoot. To compare, a bolt action rifle requires the shooter to perform these actions manually.

However, the shooter must pull the trigger again on a semi-automatic gun to fire the next round, unlike a machine gun which continuously fires when the trigger is pulled.

A machine gun is a fully automatic weapon that is no longer legal to produce for civilians in the United States—making it increasingly difficult (and expensive) to have the experience of firing one. Shooting ranges that are open to the public may offer exclusive shooting experiences that give you a chance to fire a real machine gun in a controlled environment.

Semi-Automatic Rifles in the United States

According to an article published in Forbes¹, there are at least 20 million assault rifles in the United States. It’s important to note that “assault” rifles and “semi-automatic” rifles are terms often used interchangeably in the media and political platforms—but that is not necessarily correct.

Semi-Automatic Rifles vs. Assault Rifles

There are contradicting requirements for qualifying a semi-automatic rifle as an “assault” rifle. However, many refer to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994² definition. According to the specific criteria³, the term ‘“semi-automatic assault rifle” means:

A semi-automatic rifle that can accept a detachable magazine AND has at least 2 of the following:

  • A folding or telescoping stock
  • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
  • A bayonet mount
  • A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor
  • A grenade launcher

By this definition, not all semi-automatic rifles are assault rifles, and are increasingly mislabeled by people who do not understand the difference.

Are Revolvers Semi-Automatic?

Most revolvers are not semi-automatic because they do not automatically load another round after the gun is fired. But there are some semi-automatic revolvers that will rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer automatically without needing the shooter to do these actions manually. An example of a semi-automatic revolver is the Mateba Autorevolver.

Is There a Difference Between Semi-Automatic Pistols, Rifles, and Shotguns?

There are distinctions between pistols, rifles, and shotguns, whether they are semi-automatic or not. The one thing all semi-automatic weapons have in common is the ability to eject the case and reload another round immediately after a shot is fired. However, here are some key differences between these types of guns:

  • Pistol – This is a type of handgun that is generally small enough to fire using just one hand and popular for concealed carry purposes.
  • Rifle – Designed to be fired from the shoulder, rifles have long barrels and receivers, stocks, and a rifled (grooved) bore.
  • Shotgun – Similar to a rifle in that it has a long barrel and is shot from the shoulder, shotguns have a smooth bore.

Learn more about the different types of guns and how to use them from our Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Shooting Range Experience.

Popular Semi-Automatic Guns

Many people have their firearm preference when it comes to recreational and target shooting, and a lot of those favorites are semi-automatic guns. These precision machines are carefully crafted to give shooters a smooth and powerful experience. With practice, you can learn to harness the unique features of a semi-automatic firearm to improve your speed, accuracy, and handling skills.

Here are some of the most popular semi-automatic guns, many of which you can find in the gun vault at The Range 702!

Gun Name Manufacturer Firearm Type Description
AR-15 ArmaLite (United States) Rifle The ArmaLite (AR) 15 semi-automatic rifle is lightweight and easy to assemble and repair, making it one of the most popular firearms in the U.S. today.
1911 Colt Manufacturing Company (United States) Pistol The M1911 is a solid and reliable semi-automatic pistol that was used as the U.S. Army’s standard-issue sidearm from 1911 to 1986.
Glock Glock Ges.m.b.H (Austria) Pistol The Glock-17 9mm semi-automatic pistol is known for its smooth and comfortable feel that also packs a punch.
Ruger 10/22 Sturm, Ruger & Co. (United States) Rifle Known for easy handling, light recoil, and sleek design, the Ruger 10/22 has been in production since 1964.
Sig P365 SIG Sauer (Germany) Pistol The Sig P365 is a compact yet powerful pistol with no external hammer that is ideal for concealability.
H&K-MK23 Heckler & Koch (Germany) Pistol The MK 23 is an incredible semi-automatic handgun with strong military ties. It is used by Navy SEALs today.
Remington VERSA MAX Remington Arms (United States) Shotgun This semi-automatic shotgun is preferred by many hunters for its reliability and reduced recoil.

Book a Firearm Training Course at The Range 702 in Las Vegas

Whether you’re new to shooting or you’d like to brush up on your skills, The Range 702 offers training sessions with experienced instructors on everything from gun safety to concealed carry permit (CCW) classes. Our instructors will work on building your confidence, handling, accuracy, and speed to help you make the most of your time at our indoor shooting range.

To learn more about our firearms training classes or to book your session, contact our team today!


¹Walsh, Joe. (25 March 2021). U.S. Has At Least 20 Million Assault Rifles. A Ban Wouldn’t Reduce That Number. Forbes. Retrieved 29 December 2021.

²HR 3355 – 103rd Congress, 1993-1994

³Giffords Law Center. 1994 Ban Assault Weapon Definition. Retrieved 29 December 2021.

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