Pistols 101

GLOCK supports responsible gun ownership. We believe that the first step to being a responsible gun owner is knowing how to handle your firearm safely. Explore this section for a primer in the basics, including general information, safety, ammo, and how to purchase the right model for you.

Protect yourself with GLOCK's 10 rules of gun safety.
Get answers to the how, what and why of handguns.
Educate yourself in the basic parts, terms and sizes of ammunition.
Pick up valuable tips for buying a pistol.

Serious About Firearm Education

GLOCK believes gun ownership is something to be taken seriously. So we're very serious in our commitment to gun safety starting with the 10 rules for safe and responsible use of GLOCK products, including how to properly use, maintain, store, and handle your pistol around others. Learn the basics here, then locate a dealer or range near you for professional training.

  1. Rule 1

    Handle every firearm as if it’s loaded.

  2. Rule 2

    Train with all your guns.

    Every gun is unique in the way it feels, handles and fires, so it’s important to achieve a maximum comfort level with every gun you own by practicing with each one separately at a local dealer or range. Done on a regular basis, this exercise will strengthen familiarity and muscle memory, so each gun feels as natural and comfortable as the next, even in stressful situations. While training on the range, remember to always use acceptable eye and ear protection.

  3. Rule 3

    Always point the muzzle in a safe direction, away from yourself and others.

    A safe direction means that the muzzle of the gun is pointed so that if it were to accidently fire it would not cause injury or damage.

  4. Rule 4

    Keep your finger outside the firearm’s trigger guard and off the trigger until you have aligned the firearm’s sights on a safe target and you have made the decision to fire.

  5. Rule 5

    Always be certain that your target and the surrounding area are safe before firing.

  6. Rule 6

    Know your gun's safety features.

    The safety features of firearms vary in accordance with the mechanical characteristics of each gun. Since guns can be so different, never handle any firearm without first having thoroughly familiarized yourself with the particular type of firearm you are using.

  7. Rule 7

    Store your gun properly.

    Guns placed in drawers, closets, desks, cabinets, or other unlocked, accessible places are simply not secure. For proper storage always use a personal safe or single gun lock box with a trigger lock placed on the firearm for an added layer of protection.

    To learn more about safe gun storage solutions, visit a dealer near you.

  8. Rule 8

    Educate loved ones on gun safety.

    Take time to teach your loved ones, including children of an appropriate age, the basic safety guidelines outlined here. Bring them with you to the range to become more comfortable around guns and to see their proper, safe use firsthand.

  9. Rule 9

    Ensure all users are properly trained.

    Whether it's a family member or friend, it's essential that anyone else who will be using your gun is properly trained. Gun education, training and classes are widely available for both adult beginners and children over a certain age, are offered for a reasonable fee and can be taken at firing ranges and dealers in your area.

  10. Rule 10

    Properly maintain your gun.

    Gun maintenance includes proper use, cleaning and service. It is important to use good ammunition of the proper caliber. Occasional cleaning and lubrication will keep your gun functioning at an optimal level. To maintain the integrity of the pistol, GLOCK recommends leaving it in factory-issued form with no aftermarket parts. Should an issue arise with a factory-issued pistol, contact the manufacturer’s customer service.


Handguns come in a wide array of types for a variety of purposes and needs. Explore this section for information on pistol sizes, calibers, actions, and styles. Learn the working parts of a pistol, what makes it fire, need-to-know terminology, and more.

  1. 1

    Two different types of handguns

    1. A semi-automatic pistol is a type of handgun that uses a single chamber and barrel. The pistol fires a chambered round, extracts and ejects the empty casing and then loads a new round into the chamber (if additional rounds are in the magazine) with each trigger pull. GLOCK pistols are semi-automatic, but are more lightweight and can hold a higher capacity of rounds when compared to other handguns.
    2. A revolver is a handgun that contains a cylinder with multiple chambers. When the trigger is pulled, the cylinder rotates around a central pin to align the next chamber with the firing pin. A single barrel will fire one round per trigger pull.
  2. 2

    Four primary parts of a pistol

    1. Frame: The frame makes up the basic structure of the pistol to which the other major parts are attached.
    2. Barrel: The barrel is a long hollow tube through which the projectile travels on its way to the target. The 'rifled' (grooved) texture inside spins the bullet, creating velocity and accuracy. In most cases, the length of the barrel determines the velocity. The shorter the barrel, the less velocity is produced.
    3. Slide: The slide is the steel upper portion of a semi-automatic pistol. It slides along its rails during the recoil process. The slide chambers ammunition into the barrel and extract the spent casing after the round is fired. It also slides along its tracks during the recoil process to provide the link between the breechblock and barrel. The slide is used to chamber the ammunition into the barrel and extract the spent casing from the fired ammunition.
    4. Magazine: The magazine contains the ammunition and ensures that it is fed properly into the barrel.
  3. 3

    Other terms

    1. Ammunition: Ammunition is also known as a 'cartridge' or 'round'. It consists of casing, primer, powder, and projectile.
    2. Trigger: The trigger is the release device in the firing system that allows the cartridge to discharge. It is usually a curved piece that is pulled back by the shooter's finger, therefore activating the hammer.
    3. Trigger guard: The trigger guard is the material around the trigger that provides protection and safety.
    4. Hammer: The hammer impacts the firing pin or cartridge directly, discharging the ammo.
    5. Firing pin: The Firing pin is the hardened pin centered behind the primer of a chambered cartridge. When struck by the hammer, it impacts the primer cap of the cartridge and discharges the ammunition.
  4. 4

    What is the action of a gun?

    The action of the gun consists of all the moving parts that facilitate the loading, firing, discharging of the empty case, and unloading of the gun. There are two types of action:

    1. Double-Action: A long trigger pull both cocks and releases the hammer/firing pin to fire the gun.
    2. Single-Action: The trigger is used only to release the hammer/firing pin and does not cock the firing mechanism.
  5. 5

    How a pistol works

    1. Feeding - moving a cartridge from the magazine toward the barrel.
    2. Chambering - a cartridge is fully in the barrel chamber area.
    3. Locking - the barrel and slide 'lock' together mechanically.
    4. Firing - the cartridge primer is hit by the firing pin, powder is lit, pressure builds and the projectile (bullet) leaves the barrel.
    5. Unlocking - the slide and barrel mechanically separate slightly.
    6. Extracting - the slide moves rearwards and the extractor 'hook' is pulling the empty cartridge casing out of the barrel by its rim.
    7. Ejecting - the ejector hits the empty cartridge rim turning it/pushing it out the slide ejection port.
    8. Cocking (resetting the action) - the trigger and the firing pin are set together and ready to fire another round if desired.


Knowing how ammunition works is essential to getting the most out of your firearm. Learn about the core components of ammunition, basic terms and standard measurements.

  1. 1

    Components of ammunition

    1. Bullet: The metal projectile (usually lead) that is expelled from the mouth of a firing cartridge.
    2. Casing: A tube that houses the cartridge primer and powder, and is typically made from brass. The bullet is typically held in the open end of the casing.
    3. Powder: The gunpowder used in a cartridge that propels the bullet.
    4. Primer: A small cap in the head of the cartridge that when struck by the firing pin, ignites the powder.
  2. 2

    How does firing ammunition work?

    When the gun is fired, the primer is hit by the firing pin of the gun and ignites the powder. As the powder burns, it creates pressure that pushes the bullet (projectile) down the barrel.

  3. 3

    How is ammunition measured?

    Ammunition is measured by the bullet's diameter. For example, a 9mm bullet is approximately 9.01mm and a .40 caliber bullet is .400 inches in diameter. Depending on the origin of its invention, ammunition is measured using millimeters or caliber. 9mm ammunition originates in Europe, whereas the .40 caliber was invented in the United States.

  4. 4

    Basic Ammunition Calibers

    1. 9mm: This caliber is the most popular and widely used worldwide.
    2. .40 caliber: Larger and slower than 9mm, with more recoil.
    3. .45 auto: Slightly larger and slower than .40 caliber, with a bit more recoil.
    4. .45 gap: Rivals the firepower of the .45 auto, but is shorter, allowing it to fit into a more compact semi-auto pistol.
    5. 10mm: Has greater range and is faster than the .45 auto.
    6. .357 auto: Slightly longer than the .40 caliber, and known for accuracy and stopping power.

How to buy

There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a handgun, such as your needs, the primary use, fit and feel, price, and local laws. We’ll help guide you through the buying process, with GLOCK’s cardinal rule: try it before you buy it. From here, proceed to an authorized dealer for assistance making the right purchase for you.

  1. 1


    Find a trusted manufacturer like GLOCK, and locate dealers in your community that can offer expert advice on how, why and when to use a firearm.

  2. 2

    Know your laws

    Every state has different criteria for gun ownership. All gun purchases require valid identification and a background check. Some gun purchases, depending on the state, require subsequent registration of the firearm upon purchase. Be sure to understand the regulations in the state where you live.

  3. 3

    Try before you buy

    GLOCK believes that the most important thing to consider, aside from learning how to responsibly own a gun, is to 'try it before you buy it.' Most dealers will allow you to handle their firearms to test for comfort and fit. Many gun ranges will also let you try firing various guns to test different sizes, calibers and accessories to fit your specific needs. Find a dealer or range in your area.

    As you are trying various pistols, consider the following:

    1. Needs: Pick the pistol that best suite your needs. See our section 'Which GLOCK is right for you?' to better assess your needs.
    2. Fit: Make sure the pistol fits well in your hand. Consider the weight and shape of the pistol.
    3. Price: Pistols are available in most all price ranges.
  4. 4

    Necessary gear

    You may want to consider accessories in conjunction with a pistol purchase. The following are a few accessories GLOCK recommends:

    1. Gun Case: Cases help in gun transport and come with either hard or soft sides. There are various types depending on your budget.
    2. Storage: Storage for your gun can come in various forms: a case, gun rug, safe, lock box, and more.
    3. Eye Protection: Eye protection is always important for target shooting and training. GLOCK recommends looking for comfortable, durable eye protection with high safety ratings, in addition to a semi wrap-around feature that protects the sides of your eyes.
    4. Ear Protection: Ear protection should always be worn while shooting. Custom-molded ear protection or ear muffs are recommended.
  5. 5

    Start training immediately

    To be a responsible gun owner, it is critical to be aware of the fundamentals of your pistol. It takes time to build muscle memory, skill and comfort.

  6. 6

    Do you need a concealed carry license?

    Each state determines how residents obtain a concealed carry permit. Some states do not require a permit at all. Some states require training that includes classroom instruction and/or live-fire qualification.

    As with most general gun purchases, most states also require a criminal background check to ensure the purchaser is not prohibited, for any reason, from being issued a concealed carry license.