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What’s the Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Pickleball?

WriterKelsy Kim
6 min read
Document
 Close-up of someone cleaning a disassembled pistol on a table.

A pistol is a great tool for self-defense or addition to your hunting arsenal. Yet, beyond their sleek exteriors and impressive reputations, many people don’t fully understand the mechanisms that make pistols function properly. From the grip to the barrel, every part contributes to the firearm’s reliability and performance. Let’s explore each part of a pistol to help you better understand this firearm.

Key Takeaways

  • Parts of a Pistol — We cover all the main parts of pistols including the frame, barrel, action, slide, and magazine.
  • Frame — The frame is a pistol's structural foundation. It houses the grip, frame rails, safety, trigger guard, magazine, magazine well, and magazine release.
  • Barrel — The barrel is the metal tube the bullet travels through when fired. It guides the bullet’s trajectory using rifling grooves that create spin to increase accuracy.
  • Action — The action is the mechanism by which ammo is loaded, fired, and ejected. Learn the differences between striker fire and hammer fire.
  • Pistol Safety Accessories — We recommend accessorizing with items for safety including a gun lock, pistol case, ammo can, cleaning kit, and holster.

Parts of a Pistol

 Smith & Wesson pistol with the exterior parts labeled.

When learning about modern pistols and semi-automatic pistols, it’s best to start with their most basic stationary and moving parts. These are the foundation for the rest of the firearm. Let’s take a closer look at each part.

Frame

  • Grip
  • Frame Rails
  • Safety
  • Trigger Guard
  • Magazine
  • Magazine Well
  • Magazine Release

Barrel

  • Barrel Interior
  • Barrel Hood
  • Rifling
  • Muzzle
  • Cartridge Chamber

Action: Striker Fire

  • Trigger and Trigger Bar
  • Striker
  • Striker Safety
  • Spring Assembly

Action: Hammer Fire

  • Trigger Safety
  • Recoil Spring and Guide
  • Firing Pin, Firing Pin Spring, and Sear
  • Extractor and Ejector
  • Hammer and Spring Cup
  • Decocker and Locking Block

Slide

  • Slide stop or Slide Release
  • Slide Serrations
  • Ejection Port
  • Cover Plate
  • Sights

Magazine

  • Follower
  • Spring
  • Floor Plate
  • Tube
  • Feed Ramp

Frame

 Diagram of the frame of a pistol with parts labeled.

The frame of a pistol is its central structure. It houses and supports the key components of the firearm, including the slide and firing mechanism. It also helps the shooter securely hold the firearm while in use.

Grip

The grip is the primary handle for pistols and semi-automatic pistols. It provides control and stability during use. It also contains the magazine within its hollow interior, which can be accessed through the magazine port at the bottom. It includes a magazine release button for easy removal and reloading.

Frame Rails

Frame rails are metal tracks or grooves in the frame of a firearm that allow the slide to move smoothly during cycling. The interaction between the frame rails and the slide ensures proper alignment, stability, and functionality of the firearm's moving parts.

Safety

The safety mechanism, referred to as ‘the safety,’ can either disable the firing capability of the pistol or safely lower a cocked hammer. Positioned for easy access, it ensures the pistol can be made safe or ready to fire as needed.

Expert Tip:

Most striker-fired pistols have an internal safety that keeps the firearm from firing unless the trigger is pulled. Otherwise, you’ll see a switch on the exterior.

Trigger Guard

The trigger guard is an important safety feature of a pistol that surrounds the trigger to prevent accidental firing. It is a protective barrier that helps avoid unintentional trigger pulls by fingers or objects. While the trigger guard is a safety feature, it is not the same as the safety mechanism.

Magazine

The magazine is a detachable piece that stores ammunition in a small, spring-loaded space. This allows bullets to be quickly put into the pistol's chamber. Some models have a capacity indicator that helps shooters monitor the number of bullets remaining in the magazine.

Magazine Well

The magazine well is the part of a pistol at the bottom of the grip that guides the magazine into place for ammunition feeding. Its design often includes beveled or flared edges for quick magazine changes.

Magazine Release

The magazine release is a button near the grip that allows for quick release and changing of magazines when pressed.

Barrel

 Diagram of the barrel of a pistol with parts labeled.

The barrel of a pistol is an important component designed to direct and propel the bullet toward the target. It is typically made from high-strength materials, like steel, to withstand the pressure of firing.

Barrel Interior

The barrel interior, also known as the bore, is what the bullet travels through when fired. Its diameter determines the pistol's caliber. Maintaining the bore's cleanliness and condition is important because any dirt or damage can greatly compromise the firearm's accuracy and overall performance.

Barrel Hood

The barrel hood is the portion of the barrel that extends over the chamber area when the gun is in battery (fully closed). It helps ensure proper alignment of the cartridge with the chamber during the feeding process.

Rifling

Rifling is the spiral grooves cut into the bore's interior surface. These grooves spin the bullet as it moves through the barrel to stabilize it in flight and increase accuracy over distance. The pattern and twist rate of rifling varies based on the pistol’s design and intended use.

Muzzle

The muzzle is the front end of the barrel where the bullet exits the gun. Its design influences the pistol's accuracy and the shooter's ability to control recoil and muzzle rise. Some barrels are threaded to accept accessories such as suppressors or muzzle brakes, which can reduce noise, flash, and recoil.

Cartridge Chamber

The chamber is the part of the barrel where the cartridge is inserted and held in place before firing. It is precisely sized to match the dimensions of the pistol’s ammunition. This creates a tight seal for optimal pressure when the gun is fired. The chamber's design contributes to the firearm's overall safety, reliability, and performance.

Action: Striker Fire

 Diagram of the action of a pistol with parts labeled.

The action of a pistol includes the internal pieces that manage loading, firing, and ejecting a cartridge. These parts work together to ensure the pistol operates smoothly and reliably.

A striker-fired pistol uses a spring-loaded metal rod, called a striker, as its primary firing mechanism instead of a traditional hammer. The striker is released when the trigger is pulled, striking the cartridge's primer. It is made up of several parts.

Trigger and Trigger Bar

The trigger is the lever pressed by the shooter to discharge the firearm. Connected to the trigger is the trigger bar, which transfers the trigger pull to the firing mechanism. The amount of force needed to pull a firearm’s trigger is known as the trigger pull weight.

Expert Tip:

Lighter trigger pull weights improve accuracy, while heavier trigger pull weights increase safety because the firearm will be slightly more difficult to shoot.

Striker

The striker is a spring-loaded metal rod or plunger. When the trigger is pulled, the striker is released, striking the cartridge's primer and igniting the propellant.

Striker Safety

Similar to a trigger safety, a striker safety prevents the striker from moving forward unless the trigger is intentionally pulled. It helps prevent accidental discharges if the gun is dropped or mishandled.

Spring Assembly

The spring assembly consists of multiple springs. These may include the main striker spring, which powers the striker's forward movement, and secondary springs, such as the trigger return spring and the striker safety spring. Together, these springs ensure the proper functioning of the firing mechanism, cartridge ignition, and trigger reset.

Action: Hammer Fire

In a hammer-fired gun, a hammer is cocked either manually or by the rearward movement of the slide. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer is released, striking the firing pin or directly impacting the cartridge's primer. While this type of pistol has a trigger and trigger guard like a striker-fired gun, it also has a few different parts.

Trigger Safety

A trigger safety is a mechanism that prevents the accidental discharge of a firearm. It is usually a type of lever integrated into the trigger that is pressed before pulling the trigger.

Recoil Spring and Guide

The recoil and spring guide work together inside the pistol to absorb recoil and return the slide to its forward position after firing. The spring's tension is key to the pistol's cycling process, ensuring reliability and readiness for the next shot.

Firing Pin, Firing Pin Spring, and Sear

This combination includes the firing pin, which strikes the cartridge primer to ignite the gunpowder; the firing pin spring, which controls the firing pin's movement; and the sear, a component that holds and releases the hammer or striker. Together, they form the core of the firing mechanism.

Extractor and Ejector

The extractor pulls the used cartridge case from the chamber while the ejector forcibly removes it from the pistol, clearing the way for the next round. These components are important for the efficient cycling of ammunition.

Hammer and Spring Cup

The hammer, driven by the spring cup, strikes the firing pin or directly impacts the primer to fire the pistol. In striker-fired pistols, the hammer and spring cup are part of the striker assembly.

Decocker and Locking Block

These two parts are pistol safety features. The decocker lowers a cocked hammer without discharging the firearm. The locking block ensures the barrel and slide lock together during firing for safety and accuracy.

Slide

 Close-up of a black Smith & Wesson pistol slide.

The slide is the moving upper part of the pistol that recoils when fired. It plays multiple roles, including chambering a round, ejecting used cartridges, and re-cocking the hammer or striker for future shots.

Slide Stop or Slide Release

The slide stop, also known as the slide release or slide lock, allows a shooter to lock the slide back manually. It helps in many ways, including clearing a malfunction or checking to make sure the firearm isn’t loaded.

Slide Serrations

Slide serrations are grooves or ridges on the outside of a firearm’s slide. They improve grip to make it easier to move the slide manually, such as when chambering a round, clearing malfunctions, or performing press checks.

Ejection Port

The ejection port is an opening on the side of the slide that expels spent cartridges after firing. It is positioned to allow proper ejection of the spent shell and works with the extractor and ejector to clear the chamber for the next round.

Cover Plate

The cover plate is a removable part on the rear of the slide that provides access to the internal components, such as the firing pin and the extractor mechanisms. This allows for maintenance, cleaning, and replacement of internal parts.

The cover plate may also have customization options, with some designs allowing for the addition of optical sights or other accessories.

Sights

Sights are mounted on the top of the slide to help the shooter aim the firearm accurately. They are often designed to be adjustable for elevation and windage. Iron sights consist of a front sight post and a rear sight notch. Alternatively, red dot or holographic sights can be mounted on the slide for enhanced target acquisition.

There are many different sights to choose from. Some of the most common types of sights are night sights, which improve vision and accuracy in low-light settings, and fiber optic sights, which increase visibility in bright environments.

Magazine

 A disassembled pistol magazine with the parts labeled.

The magazine is a detachable container designed to store and feed ammunition into the firearm's chamber. It is a part of repeating firearms that allows multiple rounds to be loaded and ready for firing. Magazines come in many designs and capacities, but all share common internal components.

Follower

The follower pushes the ammo up to the chamber as bullets are fired. Its design ensures the smooth feeding of rounds and its movement is controlled by the tension of the magazine spring. Some followers are designed to engage the firearm's slide lock mechanism when the magazine is empty, indicating the firearm is ready to be reloaded.

Spring

The magazine spring is a component that provides the necessary force to push the follower and the ammunition upwards toward the chamber. The strength and quality of the spring directly impact the reliability of the ammunition feeding process. Over time, springs can wear out and must be replaced.

Floor Plate

The floor plate is the magazine's removable bottom part. It holds the spring and follower in the magazine tube and allows for disassembly and maintenance. The floor plate can sometimes be replaced with extended versions to increase the magazine's capacity or to add weight for quicker magazine changes.

Tube

The magazine tube holds all the pieces together and houses the ammunition. It is typically made from metal or high-strength polymer and designed to fit securely within the firearm's magazine well. The interior of the tube is shaped to align the rounds for feeding into the chamber.

Feed Ramp

Feed ramps are a component of a pistol with a smooth surface that guides ammunition from the magazine into the chamber. The design of the feed ramp directly impacts a firearm’s reliability because it helps prevent malfunctions like failures to feed or jams.

Pistol Safety Accessories

 A close-up of someone wearing a holster with a handgun inside.

Handgun accessories are optional but they can improve the safety of carrying, storing, and transporting your pistol or ammo. We highly recommend having the following accessories: a gun lock, pistol case, ammo can, cleaning kit, and holster.

Gun Lock

 Redfield Gun Cable Lock.

A muzzle lock, trigger lock, or gun lock is a safety device that attaches directly to the firearm or the firearm storage case to prevent the gun from being fired. This tool is a physical barrier to unauthorized use, increasing safety when the firearm is stored or not in active use.

Travel Case

 Redfield Single Gun Soft Pistol Case.

A firearm travel case is a secure and protective environment for transporting a gun, whether to the range, on hunting trips, or for legal transport across state lines. Gun cases are designed to protect firearms from damage and, in many models, are lockable to comply with transportation laws and regulations.

Ammunition Can

 Monarch .30 Caliber Metal Ammo Can.

Ammunition storage cans are containers designed for the safe storage and transport of ammunition. They provide a weather-resistant seal to protect ammunition from moisture and dust, ensuring the reliability and longevity of the rounds stored inside.

Gun Cleaning Kit

 Hoppe’s Pistol Cleaning Kit.

A gun cleaning kit is a set of tools that includes solvents, lubricants, brushes, and patches to maintain and clean a firearm. Regular use of a cleaning kit is important for removing residues and dirt to preserve the gun's functionality and accuracy over time.

Holster

 Concealment Express Gen 1-5 Glock 19 Pistol IWB Holster

Holsters provide a secure and accessible means of carrying a firearm on one's person. They are often made for specific gun models to ensure a snug fit. Concealed-carry holsters are designed to be discreet and comfortable for everyday wear, making the firearm readily accessible and inconspicuous under clothing.

Have Fun Out There!

Ready to elevate your shooting experience? Explore our selection of pistols, ammunition, and accessories at Academy Sports + Outdoors. Whether you're a seasoned shooter or a beginner, we have everything you need to optimize your performance and customize your firearm. Shop now and gear up for your next range session or shooting adventure!