If you are new to the world of firearm ownership, it’s a good idea to get a decent overview of the various parts of a pistol. Just looking at one, you wouldn’t think a whole lot is going on underneath the slide, trigger guard, and grip.
You’d be surprised how complex the little system is in there, all to send a single round down range and slide a second into the chamber. If you take one apart for the first time, it’s always a good idea to keep the parts organized and together on a towel.
Some of the parts are pretty tiny if you break them down. Fortunately, most people don’t take it that far, even for extensive cleaning. But breaking a handgun down and reassembling it will familiarize you with the functioning parts of the pistol, and it’s nice to have a name for each component.
Parts of a Pistol
The outward parts of a pistol, before disassembling, are pretty simple to remember. You have your grip, the front and back strip (the front and back of the grip), the trigger guard, the magazine release button, the slide, the muzzle, the rear sight, the slide lock, and the front sight.
When you disassemble the weapon, the best way to label everything is to go piece by piece.
When a pistol is fired, the slide moves backward, grabbing the next round from the magazine. When it slides forward again, the new round is chambered, and the pistol is ready to fire again. The slide contains the bolt carrier group.
- Firing pin: Strikes the primer on the cartridge
- Extractor: Removes the spent case
- Barrel: The inner surface of the barrel is the bore, which is rifled.
- Recoil Spring and Guide Rod: Recoil spring absorbs recoil, and the guide rod keeps it from binding up
- Slide Lock: Locks the slide when it’s drawn back
The action has a lot of moving parts going on and includes portions of the slide, which we’ll leave out since they are covered above.
- Trigger and Trigger Bar: The trigger enables the firing pin to strike the primer, and the trigger bar deactivates the firing process until you release the trigger
- Sear: This holds the bolt or striker back until you pull the trigger
- Hammer: Only used on specific pistols—the hammer strikes the primer
- Locking Block: Keeps the slide stable and is part of the lower receiver
- Safety: With the safety on, it prevents you from firing the pistol
- Spring Cup: Contains and protects the channel that the firing pin travels through
- De-cocker: Allows you to drop the hammer (if applicable) without striking the primer and igniting the powder
- Firing Pin Spring: Retracts the firing pin, back to its original position, after the weapon is fired
Technically, it’s not a part of the pistol, since you can detach and remove it. However, it just wouldn’t be a pistol without the magazine.
- Tube: This is the body of the magazine, termed ‘single stack’ or ‘double stack’
- Spring: Pushes the rounds up, sustaining pressure so the cartridge shifts upwards as the slide racks backward, grabbing the round
- Floor Plate: This is the bottom of the magazine
- Follower: Guides the cartridges up and into the slide for extraction
There’s more to the barrel than meets the eye. It’s not just some metal tube through which a bullet travels.
- Bore: The inside of the barrel
- Chamber: The section in the back where the cartridge is loaded, ready to fire
- Rifling: The circular grooves on the surface of the bore, responsible for spinning the bullet as it exits
- Muzzle: The point of the barrel at the very front, where the round exits
The parts of a pistol are important to know. The more you know about the functionality and working parts, the easier it is to clean the weapon and gain both an understanding and respect for its power.
One of the first things new gun owners should do is remove all rounds from the chamber and magazine before disassembling the firearm as far as possible. Then reassemble it. Familiarize yourself with the parts, their names, and their functions.
Knowledge is power, and owning a firearm commands a high degree of knowledge and responsibility. Know your weapon because it may one day save you or your loved one’s life.
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