Semi-Automatic/Fully Automatic/Single Shot

An automatic weapon is one that loads another round mechanically after the first round has been fired. It can be semi-automatic, firing one shot per single pull of the trigger, or fully automatic, loading and firing ammunition until the trigger is released, the ammunition is exhausted or the weapon malfunctions.

Fully Automatic

Fully automatic is the mode of operation of a firearm whereupon the trigger is pulled and multiple shots are fired and will continue to fire until the trigger is released or until the magazine is empty. This mode of operation is extremely rare, heavily federally regulated and impossible for private citizens to purchase in a regular gun shop or at a gun show.

Did You Know?

Italy’s First Automatic Rifle

Captain Amerigo Cei-Rigotti of the Italian Army introduced one of the world’s first automatic rifles in 1900. Cei-Rigotti designed the rifle to fire both semi-auto and fully auto. He presented his gas-operated rifle to the Italian War Ministry, which had a regiment test its efficiency. The unit’s soldiers fired 432,000 rounds in two minutes with their traditional weapon, compared to 1,125,000 rounds with Cei-Rigotti’s design. Despite its impressive rate of fire, the Cei-Rigotti rifle was never adopted for regular use by the Italian Army before World War I.


Historical sketch of the Gei-Rigotti Rifle
(Illustration from Office of Naval Intelligence, Notes of Naval Progress, July, 1901, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901)


Semi-automatic is the mode of operation of a pistol, rifle or shotgun whereupon the trigger is pulled and a single shot is fired. Energy from firing is used to reload the chamber and re-cock the firing mechanism for another trigger pull. Can also be termed “self-loading.”

Single Shot

Single shot is the mode of operation where a weapon has no magazine and may contain only a single cartridge, loaded directly into the chamber. The gun must be manually reloaded and manually re-cocked every time it is fired. It is most commonly found in large hunting handguns, simple shotguns or hunting rifles.

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