An "automatic pistol" or "automatic shotgun" usually means that it has a semi-automatic design. However, fully automatic pistols (for example the Steyr TMP) and shotguns (such as the Daewoo USAS-12) exist. "Automatic rifle" usually means that the rifle has a fully automatic design, not semi-automatic.
In large countries, automatic firearms can usually only be used by the military and police. In countries where automatic firearms can be used by the public, there are usually very strict rules on their use.
A fully automatic weapon (a machine gun) is one that keeps firing bullets as long as the trigger is pulled. It stops when the trigger is let go or the ammunition runs out. Also, any weapon that shoots more than one shot at a time when the trigger is pulled once is legally called a machine gun.
- U.S. Patent 1,227,897: Automatic gun
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- In United States law, The National Firearms Act of 1934 says that a machine gun is "... any weapon which shoots ... automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger."
- Di Maio,Vincent J. M. Gunshot wounds: practical aspects of firearms, ballistics, and forensic techniques, p. 15.