The typical GMAW MIG welding gun has a number of key parts—a control switch, a contact tip, a power cable, a gas nozzle, an electrode conduit and liner, and a gas hose. The control switch, or trigger, when pressed by the operator, initiates the wire feed, electric power, and the shielding gas flow, causing an electric arc to be struck. The contact tip, normally made of copper, is connected to the welding power source through the power cable and transmits the electrical energy to the electrode while directing it to the weld area. It must be firmly secured and properly sized since it must allow the passage of the electrode while maintaining electrical contact. Before arriving at the contact tip, the wire is protected and guided by the electrode conduit and liner, which help prevent buckling and maintain an uninterrupted wire feed. The gas nozzle is used to evenly direct the shielding gas into the welding zone—if the flow is inconsistent, it may not provide adequate protection of the weld area. Larger nozzles provide greater shielding gas flow, which is useful for high current welding operations, in which the size of the molten weld pool is increased. The gas is supplied to the nozzle through a gas hose, which is connected to the tanks of shielding gas. Sometimes, a water hose is also built into the welding gun, cooling the gun in high heat operations.
The wire feed unit supplies the electrode to the work, driving it through the conduit and on to the contact tip. Most models provide the wire at a constant feed rate, but more advanced machines can vary the feed rate in response to the arc length and voltage. Some wire feeders can reach feed rates as high as 30.5 m/min (1200 in/min), but feed rates for semiautomatic GMAW typically range from 2 to 10 m/min (75–400 in/min).