So You’re a New Gun Owner? Parts of a Semiautomatic Handgun

Okay, for our next installation of useful knowledge for the new gun owner, we’re going to talk about the parts of a semiautomatic handgun.

Very important note here: not every semiautomatic handgun will have every part listed here. Some handguns will not have hammers, some will not have hammer spurs, some will not have external safeties. Takedown levers, slide stops, and magazine releases may look different. But this is a solid general overview (taken from the NRA Basic Pistol course) on the parts of a semiautomatic handgun.

Some key parts:

Slide: the upper part of the handgun. Houses the barrel, recoil spring, firing pin/striker, and other parts of the action.

Frame: the lower part of the handgun. Houses the trigger, hammer (if equipped), and magazine well. You grip this part of the handgun.

Backstrap and tang: the rear part of the frame. The tang is important because a proper grip will sit high in the tang to help reduce muzzle flip during recoil.

Front and rear sights: Properly aligning the front and rear sights is key to hitting your target.

Magazine: holds the ammunition for your handgun.

Magazine Release/Catch: locks the magazine into the handgun. Releases the magazine when pushed.

Slide stop: locks the slide to the rear, either manually or through interaction with an empty magazine.

Grips: may be separate pieces made of metal, polymer, wood, or laminate and held to the frame with screws, or may be a molded part of the frame.

Safety (if equipped): blocks the movement of the trigger and/or hammer when in the Safe position. May also serve as a decocker for double action/single action handguns.

Trigger: interacts with the hammer or striker to cause the striker or firing pin to hit the primer and fire the round.

Recoil spring (not shown): housed in the slide, the recoil spring controls the movement of the slide as it reciprocates under recoil. It slows the slide as it moves to the rear, then accelerates it forward again to chamber the next round.


These are the primary parts of the handgun that we’ll be concerned with going forward. It seems like a lot of parts, but after a while, if you learn the terminology early, it will become second nature. If you are wondering what parts your handgun may or may not have, consult your manual. There should be a diagram that shows the key parts of your handgun. Keep in mind that the names may be slightly different, as some manufacturers change the part names slightly, but the functions will be mostly the same.

Realizing that this was a very quick overview, I hope this has been useful for you. If you enjoyed, give us a follow and a share. Social media really limits our ability to advertise, and organic shares always have the biggest impact. If you think I missed something or have a question, drop a comment below. Alternatively, you can contact me via my Facebook page, Google Hangout, or email at guntoter.official (at)

Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “So You’re a New Gun Owner? Parts of a Semiautomatic Handgun

Leave a Reply