What You Learned
All rifles have three major parts—the stock, the action, and the barrel.
- The stock helps you hold, aim, and fire the gun.
- The action loads, fires, and unloads the cartridges.
- The barrel sends the bullet to the target.
Rifles, shotguns, and handguns have many similar parts. The bolt-action rifle is a commonly used firearm.
The rifling inside a rifle or handgun bore makes bullets spin so that they fly accurately, point first, toward the target. Most shotgun barrels do not have rifling.
The five common types of rifle actions are bolt action, lever action, pump action, semi-automatic action, and break action.
To use a bolt-action rifle, lift the bolt handle up and pull it back to open the action. Push the bolt handle forward and turn it down to close the action. Most bolt-action rifles have a magazine that holds extra cartridges. Working the bolt after firing ejects the empty case and loads a fresh cartridge from the magazine.
To use a lever-action rifle, pull the lever downward and forward until it stops and then pull it back up toward the stock. Working the lever moves cartridges from the magazine into the chamber and also cocks the hammer for firing. Lever-action rifles are difficult guns for beginning shooters to use.
To use a pump-action rifle, pull the forend back toward the trigger guard to open the action. Push the forend away from the trigger guard to close the action. If the gun is cocked, you must press the bolt-lock lever or button to open the action. Pump-action rifles usually have a tubular or box magazine.
To use a semi-automatic rifle, pull the operating handle back to open the action. Press the release button to close the action. Each time you squeeze the trigger, the semi-automatic rifle fires, ejects the empty case, and loads a fresh cartridge from the magazine. Semi-automatic rifles usually have a tubular or box magazine.
To use a break-action (hinge-action) rifle, push the lever to one side and then push down to open the action. Push the forend and barrel upward to close the action. Break-action rifles do not have magazines.
Rifles and handguns are measured in caliber. The larger the caliber number, the larger the diameter of bullet that the gun shoots. To find the correct ammunition for your rifle, look on the rifle’s barrel. Make sure the numbers stamped on the barrel match the numbers on your ammunition.
A safety is designed to prevent a firearm from firing. When the safety is “on,” the gun should not fire. When the safety is “off,” the gun is ready to fire. Always use your safety, but remember that a safety is a mechanical device that can fail. A safety is not a substitute for safe gun handling.
A sight is used to aim rifles and handguns. The three types found on rifles are the open sight, the aperture (peep) sight, and the telescopic sight.
Here are some of the Washington laws and regulations that apply to anyone who hunts with a rifle.
- All rifles must have a minimum barrel length of 16 inches.
- You must be at least 18 years of age to buy a rifle from a licensed firearms dealer.
- Minors under 18 years of age may possess a firearm if they are attending a hunter safety course, are hunting or trapping with a valid license, or meet one of the other exceptions.
- Rifles used to hunt big game should be powerful enough for the game being hunted.
- Centerfire rifles used to hunt big game (except cougars) must be at least .24 caliber.
- Fully automatic firearms are illegal for hunting.
Washington has specific seasons for hunting deer, elk, goat, sheep, moose, and bear with rifles. Check the annual Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for open seasons, dates, units, and requirements for special applications.