A handgun is a firearm designed to be held and operated by one hand, with the other hand optionally supporting the shooting hand. This characteristic differentiates handguns as a general class of firearms from their larger counterparts: long guns such as rifles and shotguns, mounted weapons such as machine guns and autocannons, and larger weapons such as artillery.
Some handgun subtypes include derringers, single-shot pistols, revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, pepperboxes, and machine pistols.
Semi-autos use part of the energy produced by burning cartridge powder to remove the used cartridge from the chamber, cock the hammer (or striker) and load a new cartridge in the chamber, so the pistol will be ready for the next shot. Cartridges are usually fed from a box magazine, located in the pistol’s handle. Box magazines may contain up to 15 cartridges (or more) in single or double columns, depending on the pistol model, and are easy (and very quick) to reload.
Revolvers got their name from the rotating (or Revolving) cylinder, which contains cartridges. Usually the cylinder holds from 5 to 7 loads, although some .22 caliber revolvers may contain up to 8-10 cartridges. Loads in the cylinder may be reloaded in 2 ways (depending on revolver design) – one by one, as, for example, the Colt PeaceKeeper does (and almost all old-timers), or all simulateounosly – when the cylinder is switched to the side or when the is frame “broke open.”