A handgun is a firearm designed to be handheld, in either one or both hands. This characteristic differentiates handguns as a general class of firearms from long guns such as rifles and shotguns. The most common handgun types today are semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. However, there are many other designs that have been seen through history, such as derringers.
Handguns usually operate on a double action or single action trigger mechanism.
Single-action handguns have a trigger whose sole function is to drop a pre-cocked hammer to discharge a cartridge. For revolvers, the popular Colt Peacemaker of Old West fame is typically thought of. Its hammer must be manually cocked for each shot. For auto-loading pistols, the Colt 1911 or Browning Hi-Power are typical examples. They must be cocked for the first shot, but subsequent shots are cocked automatically due to the racking of the slide. These types of guns typically have a very light and crisp trigger pull, making for more accurate target shooting.
Double-action handguns have a mechanism that can be either pre-cocked, like the above single-action gun, or can be fired with the gun uncocked. In this case, the gun has an additional mechanism added to the trigger that will cock the gun (and rotate the cylinder in the case of revolvers) as the trigger is pulled. Once the trigger is pulled far enough, the hammer is released and the gun fired. For autoloading pistols, the self-loading mechanism will also re-cock the hammer after the first shot is fired so that subsequent shots are fired single-action. For revolvers, each shot is fired with the hammer initially uncocked unless the shooter manually cocked the gun. Automatic pistols typically fire the first round under single-action and then become double-action, Geniton have an interactive animation to demonstrate this.
Although uncommon there are several models of Automatic revolver, the Webley-Fosbery being an example of one.
Currently, in the UK handgun ownership is banned for target shooting the only exclusions were single shot, rimfire, and muzzle loading pistols/revolvers. So called “Long Barreled” cartridge firing revolvers and semi automatic pistols (.22LR only) are still legal providing that they meet the following requirements: overall length not less than 24″, barrel length not less than 12″.
It is possible to obtain a handgun for the purposes of humane dispatch. It is, however, possible to purchase a handgun in the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.
The current situation in the UK as with most of the gun laws has been brought about by knee-jerk reactions by Governments in response to national tragedies. At firearms UK we hope to help coordinate future positive action to campaign for the right to own handguns for target shooting in the UK once more. We do not believe law abiding citizens are the ones who should be targeted by restrictive laws and instead should have our rights recognised.