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Definition of Action: Gun and Shooting Firearms Terminology

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Photo of Savage Model 110 rifle action.

This is the action of a Savage Model 110 bolt-action rifle, sans bolt.

Photo © Russ Chastain
Definition: The word "action" is used to describe the way a gun functions. It may also be used to denote the mechanically-operable portion of the gun, less the barrel and magazine.

A gun's action is its heart. This where the loading and firing mechanisms come together to form a working firearm and to dictate the way in which it functions.

Revolvers may be described as single action or double action. Other guns' actions may be semi-automatic, bolt action, lever action, pump (or slide) action, break action, or single shot. "Single shot" may be used to describe an action, and may itself be subdivided into more descriptive subcategories of actions, including (but not limited to) bolt action, falling block, Martini, rolling block, break action, tip-up, trapdoor, and Flobert.

Semi-automatic pistols may also be subcategorized as single action only (SAO), double action only (DAO), or single action/double action (SA/DA).

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