min read
how to tell gun type

Knowing Which Gun You Have

Some people wonder which gun they actually have when it comes time to buy a holster for it. It might seem a stretch, but not everyone who owns a gun is a major firearms enthusiast and knows about all the makes and models.

It's a lot like cars; a lot of people who just need to get to work and back and don't care the way serious gearheads do. 

How to find out, though? There are a few different ways to discern what make and model gun a person owns, in case someone needed to get replacement parts or find a concealed carry holster for it.

The Easiest Way to Identify a Gun Model Type

identify gun type

One of the easiest ways to find out what gun you have is checking out the maker's marks on the slide or barrel. Firearms manufacturers, you see, stamp a certain amount of information on the outside of the gun.

Long guns tend to have that information stamped directly on the barrel.

Pick up a rifle or shotgun and you'll see it, usually where the barrel meets the rest of the gun. Sometimes it's on the right side, sometimes on the left. The name of the gun is not uncommon, along with gauge or caliber and other pertinent information, such as chamber length on most shotguns. 

It may also be on the receiver. 

It's the same with pistols. Semi-autos will usually have the make and model of the firearm printed on the slide, either on the right or left side. There may be certain information printed on both sides. Some guns will even have safety info, such as a warning that there isn't a magazine disconnect safety or other pertinent gun safety information.

Revolvers, much like long guns, often have make, model and caliber info located forward of the chamber. Usually it's on the barrel, and often enough on the left side, though not always.

So, if you're confused about what make and model firearm you have and you'd like to get a holster or other accessory for it, that's the easiest way to find out what make and model it is.

Try A Gun Serial Number Lookup

gun serial number

If the information isn't clearly printed on the firearm, or has rubbed off with age, then try a gun serial number lookup. That may be able to tell you what make and model firearm that it is.

However, a gun serial number check isn't always the most reliable or precise method of getting information about your gun.

Some manufacturers have simple numbers, and others - like Smith & Wesson - use proprietary nomenclature that's easier to nail down. 

The largest resource is the Blue Book of Gun Values. You look up the serial number, and you'll likely get a list of results.

A condensed version is available on the NRA website, and there are additional resources located on Cornell Publications.

That said, a serial number search is usually a two-step process. First you look up the serial number, then you look for pictures of those guns to find out which one it is! 

For instance, let's say a hypothetical person looks up a hypothetical gun with serial number 81005. Among the results, they would find a 1965 Winchester Model 70, a 1926 12-ga. Browning A-5 shotgun or a 1958 Browning Hi-Power, to name a few.

Those guns are a bolt-action rifle (the Rifleman's Rifle) a semi-auto shotgun and a semi-auto pistol. You'll know which is which, but might need to see some pictures to find out what you have. 

Bear in mind, too, that a lot of firearms weren't serialized until the Gun Control Act of 1968 mandated them to be. 

If All Else Fails, Try A Gunsmith Or Gun Store


However, if all else fails, a person could always just take the gun into a gun store or to a gunsmith and ask. Or perhaps a person has a friend that's knowledgeable; they may know.

As with anything else, a person can always just find someone who knows more and ask them. They'll either know or point you in the direction of someone who does, and then one can go from there.

Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.