A handgun is a firearm designed to be handheld, in either one or both hands. This characteristic differentiates handguns as a general class of firearms from long guns such as rifles and shotguns (which usually can be braced against the shoulder).
Major handgun subtypes are the double action and pistol (including single-shot pistols, semi-automatic pistols, and machine pistols); other subtypes include derringers and pepperboxes.
The words "pistol" and "handgun" have overlapping variations in meaning.
Although handgun use often includes bracing with a second hand, the essential distinguishing characteristic of a handgun is its facility for one-handed operation.