You ever see those rifles or shotgun where the magazine is behind grip? These are bullpup type firearms. I always found these types of weapons as futuristic looking guns. I also always thought that these types of gun were special in some way but I just had no idea about them.

The bullpup type of gun operates differently than conventional firearms but output the same results. The operation that makes them work different is that the action is behind the trigger group. Because of this, people might want to go with a bullpup firearm is because they are smaller in overall size and length. This can benefit shooters and soldiers alike in multiple ways.

Lets look into exactly why bullpup weapons might be considered and the positives and negatives about this firearm type.

Bullpup Origins

Thorneycroft carbine patent

The very first attempt at this type of firearm came from the early 1900s. In 1901, an Englishman took the standard issue Lee-Enfield rifle and modified it so the ammo feed and action were behind the trigger. This prototype was called the Thorneycroft carbine. Since the magic happened behind the trigger, this moved the barrel back a number of inches and ultimately made the rifle shorter and lighter. The prototype was scrapped due to poor performance while in the testing phase.

The Thorneycroft carbine – The official first Bullpup design

The origins of the term “Bullpup” is somewhat of a mystery. There have been a few stories going around but nobody seems exactly certain what the exact history is behind the term.

“Bullpup” – Bulldog Puppies

Theory One

The first theory is that the term was coined after bulldog puppies since the term for bulldog puppies were nicknamed “bullpups” during the late 19th century and early 20th century. This term came up because bulldog puppies were small, short nosed dog but still packed aggression and power. This would seem accurate because the bullpup style firearm was introduced at this time. 

Theory Two

There was a experimental weapon in the 1950s designated the EM-2. This experimental weapon project was nicked named “Project Bullpup”. Since the EM-2 had the action behind the trigger, this name stuck with these types of weapons.

The Lee Enfield is a bolt action rifle of the British Empire during the early 20th Century. Notice the bolt and magazine in front of the trigger. All the action happens in front which is usually deemed conventional.

The Thorneycroft carbine prototype here has the bolt and the internal magazine behind the magazine as seen here. This reduces the weight and the length of the gun due to the barrel being moved back.

How Bullpup Works

How Bullpups Work

The most striking feature that makes the bullpup unique is the fact that the action that fires the gun is all behind the trigger. This means that the ammo and/or magazine, firing pin, and operating mechanics are all behind the trigger and usually the grip where you hold the firearm. There are pros and cons to using the bullpup firearm model.

Bullpup are firearm types where the action that fires the gun is all behind the trigger

Below are the lists that compare the benefits and downsides that go with using a firearm that is built in a bullpup design:



Decrease in Size

With the gun action being behind the trigger, this will move the barrel back and reduce the length of the overall firearm and in turn reducing the weight because you don’t need to make the gun as long as it would be conventionally. This can help the shooter by having less weight.


Easier to Aim

With a smaller gun, it makes it much easier to aim. Guns that are easier to aim make target acquisition simpler as well. 



Action is close to the Shooter

Since all the action of the firearm is behind the trigger, it also puts the action close to the shooter. This can affect the shooter in a number of ways. This can make shooting louder which can put more strain on the ears. Human interaction this close can also hinder the bullet casing from ejecting properly because of the lack of distance.


Bad Trigger Builds

It’s not necessarily that the actual trigger that is bad, it’s the components that have to be connected to the trigger in order to reach the action to fire the gun. More mechanics can equal more possibilities of mishaps and reliability when firing.


Stocks not adjustable

For most bullpups, The stock on the gun is usually fixed. This can hinder the ergonomic variety for different shooters.

Bullpup Guns & Service

Bullpup Firearms and Service

After the Thorneycroft carbine and the EM-2 experimental rifle in the 1950s there have been many more bullpup weapons design and developments. The first real successful weapon system which implemented the Bullpup system is the Steyr AUG weapon platform. The Steyr AUG was developed in the 1960s and put into service in the Austrian Army in the 1970s as the STG 77.

Since the introduction of the Steyr AUG, there have been a number other very successful assault rifles, shotguns, and marksman rifles that have been developed in the bullpup style. These guns have been adopted in various countries by various militaries around the world. Many of these firearm manufacturers have been perfecting the bullpup style and functionality to reduce the initial downsides of bullpup firearms.

The countries who adopted bullpup style rifles as standard issue rifles along with the rifle names are listed below.

Steyr AUG

Assault rifle developed in the 1960s and put in service in the 1970s. Also called the STG 77. Supports standard cartridge of 5.56x45mm NATO in a 30 round magazine.




New Zealand


The FAMAS which stands for Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne is the standard service assault rifle for the French military. Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO and noted to have a 1100 RPM fire rate.


IWI Tavor-21

An assault rifle developed by Israel Weapon Industries chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO with a standard 30 round magazine.






The service rifle of the British forces. Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, the L85A1 is part of the SA80 family of rifles used by the British military.

United Kingdom

FN F2000

Probably the most futuristic looking bullpup in the list. The F2000 was developed in the late 1990s and introduced in the early 2000s. Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO.




The QBZ-85 is an assault rifle created by the arms company Chinese Norinco for the Chinese military. One of the few assault rifles designed to fire the special 5.8×42mm round of the Chinese military.



Bullpup firearms have been improved to the point where more bullpup weapons have been developed for standard use in many militaries. This trend seems to continue. For many situations the benefits of the bullpup weapon system can outweigh the drawbacks. I can see the development of more bullpup type weapons in the future. 

Tune in frequently to see coverage of bullpup firearms here in our Beginner Basics section. If you can get your hands on a bullpup weapon, I highly suggest you get to the range and try one out.

Always try different firearms out to expand your knowledge and increase your proficiency in shooting. Remember, Practice Makes Proficient.