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Handgun: The only universally agreed-upon definition of a handgun is a gun that can be held it in a single hand. According to a gun expert at NOVA Firearms, a firearms dealer in Northern Virginia, no handguns would ever be considered an assault weapon. Most are semi-automatic, but some handguns do qualify as automatic weapons, able to shoot many rounds at once. A common type of handgun is a semi-automatic pistol, a small firearm with a single, nonrevolving chamber.* The gun Jared Lee Loughner used to shoot Gabrielle Giffords and kill six people in Tucson, Ariz., a Glock 19, was a semi-automatic pistol.

From the very start, a handgun was conceived as a compact weapon for self defense. Even though today there are handguns made specifically for target competition or hunting, most are still designed with defense in mind. Thus, handguns are compact for concealability and ease of carrying. This becomes a part of the legal definition of a handgun, as they are considered "concealable" and therefore deemed dangerous and are controlled by law in most states. Of course, a handgun should be capable of firing a projectile accurately at a target. The energy delivered must be sufficient to quell any attack, yet be light enough so that the recoil generated does not wrest the gun from the shooter's hand; this is difficult in practice and there is no perfect choice, so many types of handguns are manufactured for different situations. Finally, since no one can be guaranteed a perfect shot or a single attacker, a handgun must fire multiple shots. The two most common defensive handguns are the double action revolver and the semiautomatic pistol.

Service pistol
Service revolver
Machine pistol