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A handgun is a short-barreled firearm designed to be fired with only one hand. The two most common handgun sub-types in use today are revolvers and semi-automatic pistols.

In the days before mass production, handguns were often considered a badge of office, much the same as a sword. As they had limited utility and were more expensive than the long-guns of the era, handguns were carried only by the very few who could afford to purchase them. However, in 1836, Samuel Colt patented the Colt Paterson, the first practical mass-produced revolver. It was capable of firing 5 shots in rapid succession and very quickly became a popular defensive weapon, giving rise to the saying "God created men, but Colt made them equal." Today, in most of the world, handguns are generally considered self-defense weapons used primarily by police and military officers. However, in the United States, handguns are also widely available to civilians and commonly carried for self-defense.

Many handguns are easily concealed — a trait that is useful both to civilians wishing to bear arms for self-defense and to criminals wishing to carry a handgun for illegal purposes. For these reasons, handguns are a particular focus of debates on gun politics, and in most jurisdictions both keeping and bearing arms are heavily regulated.

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