Definition of a "Break-Open," or "Break Action" Gun

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Your Citation
Chastain, Russ. "Definition of a "Break-Open," or "Break Action" Gun." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/break-action-definition-1927172. Chastain, Russ. (2017, August 29). Definition of a "Break-Open," or "Break Action" Gun. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/break-action-definition-1927172 Chastain, Russ. "Definition of a "Break-Open," or "Break Action" Gun." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/break-action-definition-1927172 (accessed September 22, 2017).
Gun
This is an example of a break-open (or break action) gun, with its action "broken" open.. Russ Chastain

Definition

When a gun or firearm is designated a "break-open" or "break action," this means that the gun's barrel is (or barrels are) set on a hinge that "breaks open" for loading or unloading.  A latch holds the barrel(s) closed against the gun's receiver. When the latch is opened, the rear of the barrel(s) may pivot upward from the receiver, while the muzzle pivots downward. The firearm is pivoted (broken) open to load cartridges or shells into the chamber or to remove spent cartridges after firing.

The term is used because the gun appears to be "broken" when the gun is opened for loading or unloading. 

This design can apply to rifles or shotguns, or to combination guns or drillings—which may contain both shotgun and rifle barrels. The term can apply to any gun that opens in this manner, but it most often refers to a long gun--a rifle or shotgun. A break-open gun may have one barrel, two barrels, or even more--as long as it opens in the described manner.

When opening a break-open action, be careful not to allow the muzzle to fall and strike the ground, floor, or other object(s), which may cause damage or allow foreign objects to enter the barrel(s).

Also, support the barrel(s) when opening a break-open gun--you don't want to place undue stress on its hinge point.