The Anatomy Of A Rifle

If you are new to the world of firearms, overhearing talks of avid gun owners might sound like gobbledegook. It’s quite a common situation for anyone unfamiliar with some field of interest: while drivers talk about crankshafts and spark plugs, some people, unencumbered by car ownership, may wonder where all this gasoline goes. But once you buy something, you might want to learn a thing or two about it. At least to understand how it works. And for that, you need to know its basic parts.

A rifle is less complicated than a car and, curious statistics, four times less deadly. But it is still a big responsibility, that’s why it is vital to know what you are holding in your hand. We are a sporting goods store that deals in firearms and want our customers to be fully aware of what they are buying. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty with a brief guide we’ve fixed.

Basic Components Of A Rifle

Being a complex mechanism, a rifle is a combination of several parts working synchronously to achieve one thing – to shoot a projectile. There are three basic rifle parts, or to be more precise, combinations of parts that make this possible.


The action is the heart of the rifle, as much as the engine is the heart of the car. This part is responsible for all processes connected with the shooting and cartridges: it loads a cartridge, activates the firing pin, and ejects the utilized cartridge. It is not a single component but rather an assembly of those. The action also describes the way this mechanism works: bolt-action, pump-action, and so on. A properly maintained action allows for clean and smooth shots, while neglected and broken one can lead to dire consequences. This is one of the parts of a rifle you should constantly keep in check.


The stock is the housing of the rifle whose rear part rests against your shoulder when shooting. It can be called an interface between the shooter and the firearm, a component that provides the shooter with a repeatable point of contact. The stock also serves as a support for the rifle receiver and barrel by dampening the accuracy-tampering vibrations of the latter. Finally, it allows the shooter to hold the rifle still to make a precise shot. Quite a multi-functional part, isn’t it?

For a long time, all stocks were wooden (walnut in particular), but technological progress changed to this tendency. Even though some rifles still feature wooden stocks, many have synthetic or polymer-based equivalents. 


The barrel is the hollow metal tube attached to the action. It sends the bullet in the desired direction (which is straight). The main difference between a rifle barrel and, say, a shotgun one is rifling: the grooves, machined into the internal part of the barrel. They give the bullet a spinning motion, stabilizing it and improving its aerodynamics. The length of the barrel also affects the accuracy: the longer the barrel, the more accurate the shot. All these features make rifles high precision firearms. 

These are the three main parts of a rifle you see when looking at it. The exterior, so to say. The action is mostly hidden within the firearm, but part of it can be seen: the renowned trigger, which is sometimes confused with the hammer by people not acquainted with guns. Now that we have a general outline of a rifle, we can take a look at its smaller components and internal parts.

Rifle Parts


That’s right, the butt is the part we begin with, mostly because it is the very rear end of the stock. The butt is the anchor point that transfers the recoil from the rifle to the shooter and doesn’t let the firearm move too much, since it rests against your shoulder. One of the initial purposes of the butt was to prevent the wood at the rear of the stock from splintering, and only after some time it became an anchoring point. Today, stock butts are often made from hard rubber that absorbs the part of the recoil force and makes the shooting process more comfortable.

In truth, many parts of the stock have separate names. The lower and upper parts of the butt are called, respectively, the toe and the heel. The comb is a part vital for repeatable accuracy – this is the section of the stock that you lean your cheek against. As you can imagine, if your cheek rested in a different position with every shot, your perspective would change as well. That is hardly a favorable condition for making accurate shots, that’s why combs should allow your cheek to remain in the same position.


Another part of the stock is the grip, also referred to as the wrist. As the name implies, this is the part that comes in contact with your shooting hand (the one that pulls the trigger). Grips come in many forms, usually depending on the type of rifle. Straight grips are typical for lever-action rifles, while circular are more common for bolt-action ones. Semi-automatic rifles, as a rule, have pistol-style grips that stick out from the stock.


The front part of the stock, located below the barrel. Also known as the fore-end, this part protects your offhand from getting burned by a heated barrel. Quite often forestock serves as an anchoring point for various accessories like bipods or anything else you might want to attach below the barrel. The forestock can be a part of a one-piece stock or come as a separate component.


Now that we are through with stock parts, it’s time to get into action. The receiver is a housing component that integrates all the internal action parts and attaches barrel, stock, and trigger mechanism. That’s the place where all gun components meet, so consider it an honored host.

Trigger Guard

The trigger guard is a round frame that encompasses the trigger, protecting it and preventing unintentional discharges. It also saves time by being a reference for your finger, allowing you to shoot without constantly looking at the trigger.


The trigger is one of the most recognizable firearm parts. To pull or not to pull, that is the question. At least for a good hundred movie characters. The trigger is a curved metal piece that initiates the whole shooting process. In some firearms, that is the only visible part of the action.


The internal action components differ depending on the type of action. The sear is a part of the trigger mechanism that holds the hammer, striker, or bolt until a sufficient amount of pressure has been applied. 


The bolt is a part of repeating, breechloading firearms that often integrates the firing pin and extractor. It also blocks the breech of the chamber while propellant burns. The bolt is the most important of bolt action rifle parts. 


That is the place where all cartridges are stored. Magazines have different capacities and may either be integrated into the firearm (internal) or come separately (external). Rifles that utilize attachable magazines also have the magazine well, which attaches the device, and the release button, which unlocks the magazine and allows attaching a new one.


The chamber is located at the base of the barrel and holds the cartridge ready for shooting. That is the place where the bullet separates from the cartridge case.


This component removes spent cartridge cases from the chamber, allowing for loading a new round. All spent casings leave the rifle through the ejection port.


From the interior, we move to the exterior and the last component for this brief guide. The muzzle is the front end of the barrel, the place where the bullet or another projectile leaves it. Since this is the last point of contact between the projectile and the rifle, the muzzle needs to be precisely machined for the highest possible accuracy.

With that component, we conclude our rifle anatomy guide. Quite general it came out, but still enough to give you the big picture. From now on, if any novice gun owner hears the word stock from a group of range shooters, they will understand they are probably not talking about the stock market. Or maybe they are, people can talk about anything, you know. But after having read this article, you know there is a rifle part with the corresponding name.

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