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The term of the firearm is an umbrella term that includes all devices that some use up , so ballistic devices in the broadest sense to aggressive or defensive purposes in combat, hunting, the killing (self-defense, use of resources, execution, murder, suicide), to Injection from a safe distance, for signaling, for sport or for scientific purposes (e.g. marking, measurement). This includes firearms, especially handguns , on the one hand , and mechanical firearms (such as catapults , bows ) on the other . In terms of defense technology, the firearms themselves belong to the super-category of long-range weapons .

The origin of the verb “shoot” probably comes from the Indo-European syllable (s) keu– and means something like “run fast, hurry, drive”. The noun " weapon " probably comes from the Gothic Wepma and originally means combat equipment (cf. German: Wappen ). However, the term "weapon" has z. B. also naturalized for hunting , although hunting weapons are not used for combat.

Firearms can be broken down into several components. Pistols consist of the barrel with the cartridge chamber and the weapon housing, which carries the grip , the magazine and the breech of the weapon. Revolver have instead of locking and magazine about the revolving drum . Rifles consist of the barrel or barrel with cartridge chamber as well as the stock (as a fore-end and butt or the receiver in break-open rifles ), which in fully automatic assault rifles also carries the magazine. Fixed accessories are silencers and laser pointers for target acquisition (which are mounted on the handle of the trigger on handguns ) as well as bipods and telescopic sights for rifles.

Types of firearms

According to the type of drive of the projectile

  • Firearms are firearms and objects of the same kind in which hot gases are used to propel the projectile and a projectile is driven through a barrel.
    • Handguns refers to firearms, in the narrower sense only firearms that are operated with the hands and that can be transported and handled by one person - which are also referred to as long weapons , the barrel and breech of which are longer than 30 cm in the closed position The shortest total length that can be used as intended exceeds 60 cm.
    • Handguns are firearms that are operated with one hand and which do not fall under the definition of a long gun . As a rule, these are pistols and revolvers . The term handgun is not a term used in weapon technology and cannot be equated with the term handgun. In addition to handguns, handguns also include those with a shortened barrel such as short submachine guns and, in the non-official sector, semi-automatic self-loading pistols.
  • Compressed air weapons (also known as air pressure weapons) are firearms in which cold gases ( compressed air , carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), pre-compressed air) are used to propel the projectile . Since these weapons do not require gunpowder , such a weapon is relatively inexpensive to operate. They are used almost exclusively for shooting sports . The air used is either pre-compressed by a lateral clamping lever and stored in the weapon until the shot is fired, or it is fed from a screwed-on storage cartridge at the moment the shot is fired.
  • Spring pressure weapons are weapons in which the projectile is driven by the restoring force of a previously tensioned spring . When the trigger is released, the tensioned spring either drives the projectile directly or a piston creates a sudden overpressure of air that drives the projectile through the barrel. As with compressed air weapons, the cost per shot is therefore low. These weapons, with a clear bounce when the shot was released, were mainly used in shooting sports, but are now out of date.

According to the loading mechanism

In general, especially with handguns:

  • Single- shot guns are firearms without a magazine with one or more barrels that have to be manuallyloadedwith a cartridge before each shot from the same barrel.
  • Repeating mechanism are firearms, in which, after a shot is fired through a manually operated loading mechanism ammunition is loaded from a magazine into the cartridge chamber.
  • Semi-automatic and automatic firearms are firearms that are automatically ready to fire again by automatically feeding a cartridge after a shot has been fired.

with handguns

  • Gun as single shot and self-loading pistol
    • Revolvers are a sub-category of pistols with a rotating magazine as a drum, which continues to rotate when the trigger is pulled so that the next bearing with a new cartridge comes to rest between the barrel and the firing pin.


The breech of semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons is differentiated according to firing weapons and firing weapons .

Charge and backup states

Firearms have the loading and safety status

  • unloaded (no ammunition in the chamber and introduced magazine if any), partially charged (in the Jägersprache under load ; magazine with ammunition in the gun, but no ammunition in the chamber) or finished loading (colloquially by loading ; ammunition in the chamber),
  • relaxed or cocked (based on the hammer or breech of a weapon that actuates the firing pin),
  • unlocked or secured (based on the position of the safety lever of a weapon).

The legislature also knows the status ready to fire when the firearm can be loaded and brought into position in a few simple steps. A firearm is not ready to fire if it is carried in a locked transport container and separated from the ammunition.

From a legal point of view , the term charged includes both the state partially charged and fully charged.

The loading and safety status of a weapon are of great importance for shooting safety. During the personal security check (PSK), anyone who handles firearms checks the specific loading and safety status each time a weapon is taken over or handed over and before it is cleaned or dismantled. Without a PSK, a weapon is always considered to be fully loaded for safety.

According to the type of ammunition

  • Irritant weapons are firearms with a cartridge or cartridge chamber that are intended to fire irritants or other active substances.
  • Blank firing weapons are firearms with a cartridge chamber that are intended for firing cartridge ammunition.
  • Signal weapons are firearms with a cartridge chamber that are intended for firing pyrotechnic ammunition.

According to the caliber

The effectiveness of a firearm is determined by the caliber , the size of the propellant charge and the projectile as well as its weight in relation to the length of the barrel , and the ease of use with the shaft and the sight .

  • Guns are mm as defined by the German legislation, gun with a caliber of at least twentieth Depending on the ratio of the caliber to the length of the barrel and the angle at which it is fired, they are divided into cannons , howitzers and mortars . Large-caliber guns are the main weapon of artillery .

It should be noted that bow weapons , twins and catapults  - but not crossbows  - are contrary to popular opinion according to the Weapons Act of the Federal Republic of Germany: They do not have a barrel and, above all, no mechanism to store the energy required to fire a shot ( Catapults have a storage mechanism, but no barrel). In the Weapons Act, they are considered “portable size” as items that are equivalent to firearms .

Acquisition and possession in Germany

The Weapons Act (WaffG) of the Federal Republic of Germany defines the term weapon and regulates the handling of weapons . Firearms designed for military purposes are regulated by the War Weapons Control Act.

The acquisition, possession and use of firearms are regulated by respective laws in most European countries . Violations are usually a misdemeanor , i.e. a criminal offense according to Section 52 of the criminal provisions of the WaffG.

Firearms can be acquired in Germany under conditions according to §§ 4–9 Weapons Act :

  • the completed 18th year of life
  • Reliability (no relevant criminal offenses committed, reliable storage ...)
  • personal suitability (not given e.g. in the event of incapacity to work, addiction, mental illness)
  • Need (e.g. as a marksman, hunter, expert, collector or particularly vulnerable person)
  • Expertise (knowledge of legal and technical aspects of weapons and their use, as well as practical handling), in Germany see also weapons proficiency test
  • medical-psychological examination (only up to the age of 25).

In the War Weapons Control Act named firearms may not be purchased in Germany of civilians. The Federal Criminal Police Office can, however, issue special permits.

Demilitarization and Disposal

Demilitarization here means that firearms are professionally partially destroyed and their military properties cannot be restored, or only with great effort. This is mostly done in order to be able to use military equipment for civil purposes, or to create exhibits.

Weapons that are no longer needed or found can be handed in for disposal at any police station free of charge or picked up by them.

See also


  • Heinrich Müller: rifles, pistols, revolvers. Stuttgart 1979.

Web links

Wiktionary: Firearm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Firearms  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Weapons Act Annex 1 (to Section 1, Paragraph 4) Definitions (reference: Federal Law Gazette I 2002, 3994 - 3998; for the individual changes see footnote) Section 1: Weapons and ammunition terms, classification of objects, Subsection 1: Firearms 1. Firearms within the meaning of Section 1, Paragraph 2, No. 1.1.1 Firearms: Firearms are objects that are intended for attack or defense, for signaling, for hunting, for distance injection, for marking, for sport or for play which projectiles are driven through a barrel. 1.2 Equivalent objects: Objects that can be carried in the same way as firearms are used ... 1.2.2 in which solid bodies are targeted and fired in accordance with their intended purpose, the drive energy of which can be introduced by muscle power and stored by a locking device (e.g. crossbows)