5 Common Types of Air Rifle Action

5 Common Types of Air Rifle Action

Hunting with rifles is challenging and demanding. In the last article, I have recommended a backward induction’ method to work your way backward to find out from what type of hunting to which bullet, cartridge, and then finally figured out the rifle caliber you want. In this article, I will introduce more details on each type of rifle action.

No matter which rifle action is selected for your hunting needs, or even your home defense needs, you must present the ability to have an accurate and cleaned kill shot as it will show your field craftsmanship utmost with respect for your quarry.

Rifles are classified based on their actions. There are single shot action and repeating action. All rifle actions are operated in the same five steps: loading, feeding, firing, extracting, and ejecting.

There are common five types of rifle actions available in the market today: bolt action, pump action, lever action, semi-automatic action, and break action rifles. The bolt, pump, and lever action rifles are presented from the 19th century, and in 1930s the semi-automatic rifles which were operated by gas-powered were developed and more widely introduced in the end of the World War II.

Before going to detail each rifle action type, let’s define the role of a magazine, and the cartridge clip so as not to confuse them.

Magazine is a part of a gun to hold extra cartridges ready for next shots. Different action guns will have different types of magazine; typically, there are a box, tubular, drum, and rotary magazine types.

Clip or Cartridge clip: a cartridge clip holds cartridges in a correct sequence for charging a gun’s magazine.

5 common types of Rifle Action

Bolt Action

Bolt action is strong and easy to use. The rifle cannot fire with the bolt opened.

To use Bolt action rifle, you need to manually open and close the bolt. To open the action, you first need to lift the bolt handle up and then pull it back. To close the action, push the bolt handle forward and turn the bolt handle down.

Most bolt-action rifles are repeating action. That means it is magazine have extra cartridges. After each fire, the shooter manually cycles the bolt ejecting the empty cartridge, and a new cartridge is load from the magazine to cock for the next shot. There are different types of magazines in different bolt-action guns. Check out where it is and how it works on your gun.


To operate a pump-action rifle you must pump, or slide the forearm back and forth. Pump-action rifles are also referred to as slide-action rifles. To work it, a forend is pull back toward the trigger guard so you can open the action. It is pushed away from the trigger guard to close the action.

There is a bolt lock lever usually located behind or in front of the trigger guard. This lock lever or button is for you to press before the action opens, so the gun is cocked or ready to fire. And so you can make the fire.

Pump or slide-action rifles usually come with box magazines or tubular magazines.



In a lever-action rifle, a lever is used to load fresh cartridges and eject empty shells.

To work the lever action rifle, first, the lever is pulled downward, forward, and away from the stock until it stops. Next, it is pulled back up toward the stock. New cartridges are moved from the magazine into the gun’s chamber when the lever is working, and at the same time, the hammer is also cock for firing.

With lever-action rifles, it is very difficult for the beginning shooters to uncock the gun! Because once the gun is cocked, to uncock it, there is the only way is to hold the hammer while the trigger is squeeze, and that is not easy to work for the beginning shooters. You need skill, strength, and practice that are required for uncocking a lever-action gun! That is why not all shooters can safely operate this firearm.

Some lever-action rifles have box magazines, while other rifles have tubular magazines. I recommend only flat-nosed bullets should be used in lever-action rifles with tubular magazines!


Semi-automatic rifle is an auto loading rifle or self-loading rifle. It is not ‘automatic firearms’ that many people often mistakenly refer to them.

To open the semi-automatic action, the operating handle is pulled back. To close the action, pull the release button. After a semi-automatic rifle fires, the empty cartridge ejects, and the new cartridges are loaded from the magazine to the gun’s chamber every time the trigger is squeezed.

In semi-automatic rifle, the shooter must squeeze the trigger for every shot. The operation of the semi-automatic action is that the action usually remains open until the last round of ammunition is being shot, then all the cartridges are no more in the magazine. As long as there is ammunition in the magazine and the trigger is pressed, automatic rifles will continue to fire. That is the mechanism of a self-loading rifle.

Magazines are in box or tubular in the semi-automatic rifles.

Break-Action (Hinge action)

With the break-action, the action is quite easy to inspect, open, and close.

To open the action in break-action rifle, just push the release lever to one side, and then hold one hand on the grip of the stock while pushing downward with the other hand. After that, just simply push the forend and the barrel upward to close the action. By looking into the chamber you can easily tell if a break-action rifle is loaded.

Break-action rifles are not very popular in the U.S. Each rifle is designed to have one or more barrels in one gun. Interestingly, in the U.S, most break-action rifles have only one barrel.

There are no magazines in the break-action rifles.


In summarise, there are five common rifle actions in use in the market today.

  • Bolt action rifles are strong and easy to use.
  • Pump or slide-action rifles often come with box or tubular magazines. To make a fire, you need to press the lock lever button to open the action, so the gun is cocked.
  • In lever-action rifles, a lever is used to eject empty cases and load new cartridges into the chamber. With many beginning shooters, lever-action is difficult to uncock and thus, not all shooters handle it safely. It has box or tubular magazines.
  • Semi-automatic action rifles are auto-loading rifles. In this mechanism, the shooter must squeeze trigger for every shot, and once the trigger is depressed the gun continue to fire as long as there is ammunition in the magazine.
  • The break-action or hinge-action rifles have no magazines, they are not common in the U.S. While this type of rifle would have one or more than one barrels, in the U.S, the break-action rifle has only one barrel.

Practice made perfect! While hunting with air rifles, the semi-automatic action is fast and convenience, the lever-action required skills and practise to uncock the gun. Which action you prefer and which rifle caliber is suitable to your hunting game? Check it out soon to get your rifle action ready. Be marksman and happy hunting!