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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Baker rifle

A M1903 Springfield rifle

A SIG SG 550 assault rifle
Top: A Baker rifle, a 19th century rifle
Middle: A Springfield rifle, an early 20th century bolt-action rifle
Bottom: A SG 550 rifle, a modern assault rifle
Latest rifles of year 1905

A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves ("rifling") cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile (for small arms usage, called a bullet), imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the orientation of the weapon. When the projectile leaves the barrel, the conservation of angular momentum improves accuracy and range, in the same way that a properly thrown American football or rugby ball behaves. The word "rifle" originally referred to the grooving, and a rifle was called a "rifled gun." Rifles are used in warfare, hunting and shooting sports.

Typically, a bullet is propelled by the contained deflagration of an explosive compound (originally black powder, later cordite, and now nitrocellulose), although other means such as compressed air are used in air rifles, which are popular for vermin control, hunting small game, formal target shooting and casual shooting ("plinking").

In most armed forces the term "gun" is incorrect when referring to small arms; in the military, the word "gun" means an artillery piece or crew-served machine gun. Furthermore, in many works of fiction a rifle refers to any weapon that has a stock and is shouldered before firing, even if the weapon is not rifled or does not fire solid projectiles. (e.g. a "laser rifle")

Rifles traditionally fired a single projectile with each pull of the trigger. Modern assault rifles are capable of firing in bursts or fully automatic modes, and thus overlap somewhat with machine guns. In fact, many light machine guns (such as the Russian RPK) are adaptations of existing assault rifle designs. Generally, the difference between an automatic rifle and a machine gun comes down to weight and feed system; rifles, with their relatively light components (which overheat quickly) and small magazines, are incapable of sustained automatic fire in the way that machine guns are. While machine guns may require more than one operator, the rifle is an individual weapon.


Historical overview

Rifling in a .35 Remington microgroove rifled barrel.

The origins of rifling are difficult to trace, but some of the earliest practical experiments seem to have occurred in Europe during the fifteenth century. Archers had long realized that a twist added to the tail feathers of their arrows gave them greater accuracy. Early muskets produced large quantities of smoke and soot, which had to be cleaned from the action and bore of the musket frequently; either through the action of repeated bore scrubbing, or a deliberate attempt to create "soot grooves" that would allow for more shots to be fired from the firearm might also have led to a perceived increase in accuracy, although no one knows for sure. True rifling dates from the mid-15th century, although the precision required for its effective manufacture kept it out of the hands of infantrymen for another three and a half centuries, when it largely replaced the unrifled musket as the primary infantry weapon. In the transitional nineteenth century, the term "rifled musket" was used to indicate the novel weapon which combined the accuracy of rifles and the rate of fire of muskets.

Rifles were created as an improvement to smooth bore muskets. In the early 18th century, Benjamin Robins, an English mathematician, realized that an elongated bullet would retain the mass and kinetic force of a musket ball, but would slice through the air with greater ease.[1] The black powder used in early muzzle loading rifles quickly fouled the barrel, making loading slower and more difficult. Their greater range was also considered to be of little practical use, since the smoke from black powder quickly obscured the battlefield and made it almost impossible to target the enemy from a distance. Since musketeers could not afford to take the time to stop and clean their barrels in the middle of a battle, rifles were limited to use by sharpshooters and non-military uses like hunting.

Muskets were smoothbore, large caliber weapons using ball-shaped ammunition fired at relatively low velocity. Due to the high cost and great difficulty of precision manufacturing, and the need to load readily from the muzzle, the musket ball was a loose fit in the barrel. Consequently on firing the ball bounced off the sides of the barrel when fired and the final direction on leaving the muzzle was unpredictable. Muskets had to be long so the muzzles of the rear rank’s muskets projected well forward of the faces of the front rank.

Girdled bullet and twin rifle groove of the Brunswick rifle, mid-19th century.

The performance of early muskets was sufficient for the styles of warfare at the time, whereby soldiers tended to stand in long, stationary lines and fire at the opposing forces. Aiming and accuracy were not necessary to hit an opponent. Muskets were used for comparatively rapid, unaimed volley fire, and the average conscripted soldier could be easily trained to use them. The (muzzle-loaded) rifle was originally a sharpshooter's weapon used for targets of opportunity and deliberate aimed fire, first gaining notoriety in warfare during the Seven Years War and American War for Independence through their use by American frontiersmen. Later during the Napoleonic Wars, the British 95th Regiment (Green Jackets) and 60th Regiment, (Royal American) as well as American sharpshooters and riflemen during the War of 1812 used the rifle to great effect during skirmishing. Because of a slower loading time than a musket, they were not adopted by the whole army. Since rifles were used by sharpshooters who didn't routinely fire over other men’s shoulders they didn’t need to be long, which made for a handier weapon and also meant that the tight-fitting balls didn’t have too long a distance to be rammed down the barrel.

The invention of the minie balls in the 1840s solved the slow loading problem, and in the 1850s and 1860s rifles quickly replaced muskets on the battlefield. Many rifles, often referred to as rifled muskets, were very similar to the muskets they replaced, but the military also experimented with other designs. Breech loading weapons proved to have a much faster rate of fire than muzzle loaders, causing military forces to abandon muzzle loaders in favor of breech loading designs in the late 1860s. In the later part of the 19th century, rifles were generally single-shot, breech-loading — designed for aimed, discretionary fire by individual soldiers. Then, as now, rifles had a stock, either fixed or folding, to be braced against the shoulder when firing. The adoption of cartridges and breech-loading in the 19th century was concurrent with the general adoption of rifles. In the early part of the 20th century, soldiers were trained to shoot accurately over long ranges with high-powered cartridges. World War I Lee-Enfields rifles (among others) were equipped with long-range 'volley sights' for massed firing at ranges of up to 1.6 km (1.0 mile). Individual shots were unlikely to hit, but a platoon firing repeatedly could produce a 'beaten ground' effect similar to light artillery or machine guns; but experience in World War I showed that long-range fire was best left to the machine gun.

Currently, rifles are the most common firearm in general use for hunting purposes (with the exception of bird hunting where shotguns are favored). Rifles derived from military designs have long been popular with civilian shooters.

19th century

Left image: Jean Lepage silex carbine said "du Premier Consul", circa 1800.
Right image: Rifling of Lepage carbine.

During the Napoleonic Wars the British army created several experimental units known as "Rifles", armed with the Baker rifle. These Rifle Regiments were deployed as skirmishers during the Peninsular war in Spain and Portugal, and were more effective than skirmishers armed with muskets due to their accuracy and long range.

Muzzle loading

Gradually, rifles appeared with cylindrical barrels cut with helical grooves, the surfaces between the grooves being "lands". The innovation shortly preceded the mass adoption of breech-loading weapons, as it was not practical to push an overbore bullet down through a rifled barrel, only to then (try to) fire it back out. The dirt and grime from prior shots was pushed down ahead of a tight bullet or ball (which may have been a loose fit in the clean barrel before the first shot), and, of course, loading was far more difficult, as the lead had to be deformed to go down in the first place, reducing the accuracy due to deformation. Several systems were tried to deal with the problem, usually by resorting to an under-bore bullet that expanded upon firing.

The method developed by Delvigne for his rifles, with the lead bullet being supported by a wooden sabot at its base.

The original muzzle-loading rifle, with a closely fitting ball to take the rifling grooves, was loaded with difficulty, particularly when foul, and for this reason was not generally used for military purposes. Even with the advent of rifling the bullet itself didn't change, but was wrapped in a greased, cloth patch to grip the rifling grooves.

The first half of the nineteenth century saw a distinct change in the shape and function of the bullet. In 1826 Delvigne, a French infantry officer, invented a breech with abrupt shoulders on which a spherical bullet was rammed down until it caught the rifling grooves. Delvigne's method, however, deformed the bullet and was inaccurate.

Soon after, the Carabine à tige was invented by Louis-Etienne de Thouvenin, which provided for a stem at the bottom at the barrel that would deform and expand the base of the bullet when rammed, therefore enabling accurate contact with the rifling. However, the area around the stem would clog and get dirty easily.

Minié system - The "Rifled Musket"

French-made Minié rifle used in Japan during the Boshin war (1868-1869).

One of the most famous was the Minié system, invented by French Army Captain Claude Etienne Minié, which relied on a conical bullet (known as a Minié ball) with a hollow skirt at the base of the bullet. When fired, the skirt would expand from the pressure of the exploding charge and grip the rifling as the round was fired. The better seal gave more power, as less gas escaped past the bullet, which combined with the fact that for the same bore (caliber) diameter a long bullet was heavier than a round ball. The extra grip also spun the bullet more consistently, which increased the range from about 50 yards for a smooth bore musket to about 300 yards for a rifle using the Minié system. The expanding skirt of the Minié ball also solved the problem that earlier tight fitting bullets were difficult to load as black powder residue fouled the inside of the barrel. The Minié system allowed conical bullets to be loaded into rifles just as quickly as round balls in smooth bores, which allowed rifle muskets to replace muskets on the battlefield. Minié system rifles, notably the U.S. Springfield and the British Enfield of the early 1860s, featured prominently in the U.S. Civil War, due to the enhanced power and accuracy.

Over the 19th century, bullet design also evolved, the bullets becoming gradually smaller and lighter. By 1910 the standard blunt-nosed bullet had been replaced with the pointed, 'spitzer' bullet, an innovation that increased range and penetration. Cartridge design evolved from simple paper tubes containing black powder and shot, to sealed brass cases with integral primers for ignition, while black powder itself was replaced with cordite, and then other nitro-cellulose-based smokeless powder mixtures, propelling bullets to higher velocities than before.[2]

The increased velocity meant that new problems arrived, and so bullets went from being soft lead to harder lead, then to copper jacketed, in order to better engage the spiraled grooves without "stripping" them in the same way that a screw or bolt thread would be stripped if subjected to extreme forces.

Breech loading

Loading mechanism of the Chassepot.

From 1836, breech-loading rifles were introduced with the Gerrman Dreyse Needle gun, and followed by the French Tabatière in 1864 and the British Snider-Enfield. Primitive chamber-locking mechanisms were soon replaced by bolt-action mechanisms, examplified by the Chassepot in 1866.

Cartridge storage

An important area of development was the way that cartridges were stored and used in the weapon. The Spencer repeating rifle was a breech-loading manually operated lever action rifle, that was adopted by the United States. Over 20,000 were used during the Civil War. It marked the first adoption of a removable magazine-fed infantry rifle by any country. The design was completed by Christopher Spencer in 1860.[citation needed] It used copper rimfire cartridges stored in a removable seven round tube magazine, enabling the rounds to be fired one after another. When the magazine was empty, it could be exchanged for another.

20th century

World War I and World War II had significant impacts on the design and use of the rifle. By the time of the first world war, the rifle had already been established as the stock weapon for modern infantry.

Until the early 20th century rifles tended to be very long; an 1890 Martini-Henry was almost 2 m (6 ft) in length with a fixed bayonet. The demand for more compact weapons for cavalrymen led to the carbine, or shortened rifle.

The advent of massed, rapid firepower and of the machine gun and the rifled artillery piece was so quick as to outstrip the development of any way to attack a trench defended by riflemen and machine gunners. The carnage of World War I was perhaps the greatest vindication and vilification of the rifle as a military weapon.

Experience in World War I led German military researchers to conclude that long-range aimed fire was less significant at typical battle ranges of 300 m. As mechanisms became smaller, lighter and more reliable, semi-automatic rifles, including the M1 Garand, appeared. World War II saw the first mass-fielding of such rifles, which culminated in the Sturmgewehr 44, the first assault rifle and one of the most significant developments of 20th century small-arms.

During and after World War II it became accepted that most infantry engagements occur at ranges of less than 300 m; the range and power of the large rifles was "overkill"; and the weapons were heavier than the ideal. This led to Germany's development of the 7.92 x 33 mm Kurz (short) round, the Karabiner 98, the MKb-42, and ultimately, the assault rifle. Today, an infantryman's rifle is optimised for ranges of 300 m or less, and soldiers are trained to deliver individual rounds or bursts of fire within these distances. The United States Marine Corps, however, continues to train all of its riflemen to accurately engage targets out to 500m. Typically, the application of accurate, long-range fire is the domain of the sniper in warfare, and of enthusiastic target shooters in peacetime. The modern sniper rifle is usually capable of accuracy better than 0.3 mrad at 100 yards (1 arcminute).

Modern hunting rifle.

By contrast, civilian rifle design has not significantly advanced since the early part of the 20th century. Modern hunting rifles have fiberglass and carbon fiber stocks and more advanced recoil pads, but are fundamentally the same as infantry rifles from 1910. Many modern sniper rifles can trace their ancestry back for well over a century, and the Russian 7.62 x 54 mm cartridge, as used in the front-line Dragunov Sniper Rifle (SVD), dates from 1891.

Many video games include rifles in their weaponry arsenals, beginning with the Magnavox Odyssey Shooting Gallery game accessory, created in 1968.

Technical aspects


Some early rifled guns were created with special barrels that had a twisted polygonal shape, in particular the Whitworth rifle was the first to be made with the intention of spinning the round for the use of as a "rifle". Specially-made bullets were designed to match the shape so the bullet would grip the rifle bore and take a spin that way. These were generally limited to large caliber weapons and the ammunition still did not fit tightly in the barrel. Many experimental designs used different shapes and degrees of spiraling; one widely-produced example was the Metford rifling in the Pattern 1888 Lee-Metford service rifle. Although uncommon, polygonal rifling is still used in some weapons today with one example being the Glock line of pistols (which fire standard bullets). Unfortunately, many early attempts resulted in dangerous backfiring, which could lead to destruction of the weapon and serious injury to the person firing.

Barrel wear

As the bullet enters the barrel, it inserts itself into the rifling, a process that gradually wears down the barrel, and also causes the barrel to heat up more rapidly. Therefore, some machine-guns are equipped with quick-change barrels that can be swapped every few thousand rounds, or in earlier designs, were water-cooled. Unlike older carbon steel barrels, which were limited to around 1,000 shots before the extreme heat caused accuracy to fade, modern stainless steel barrels for target rifles are much more resistant to wear, allowing many thousands of rounds to be fired before accuracy drops. (Many shotguns and small arms have chrome-lined barrels to reduce wear and enhance corrosion resistance. This is rare on rifles designed for extreme accuracy, as the plating process is difficult and liable to reduce the effect of the rifling.) Modern ammunition has hardened leadcore with a softer outer cladding or jacket, typically of an alloy of copper and nickel - cupro-nickel. Some ammunition is even coated with molybdenum-disulfide to further reduce internal friction - the so-called 'moly-coated' bullet.[citation needed]

Rate of fire

Rifles were initially single-shot, muzzle-loading weapons. During the 18th century, breech-loading weapons were designed, which allowed the rifleman to reload while under cover, but defects in manufacturing and the difficulty in forming a reliable gas-tight seal prevented widespread adoption. During the 19th century, multi-shot repeating rifles using lever, pump or linear bolt actions became standard, further increasing the rate of fire and minimizing the fuss involved in loading a firearm. The problem of proper seal creation had been solved with the use of brass cartridge cases, which expanded in an elastic fashion at the point of firing and effectively sealed the breech while the pressure remained high, then relaxed back enough to allow for easy removal. By the end of the 19th century, the leading bolt-action design was that of Paul Mauser, whose action—wedded to a reliable design possessing a five-shot magazine—became a world standard through two world wars and beyond. The Mauser rifle was paralleled by Britain's ten-shot Lee-Enfield and America's 1903 Springfield Rifle models (the latter pictured above). The American M1903 closely copied Mauser's original design.


Barrel rifling dramatically increased the range and accuracy of the musket. Indeed, throughout its development, the rifle's history has been marked by increases in range and accuracy. From the Minié rifle and beyond, the rifle has become ever more potent at long range strikes.

In recent decades, large-caliber anti-materiel rifles, typically firing 12.7 mm and 20 mm caliber cartridges, have been developed. The US Barrett M82A1 is probably the best-known such rifle. These weapons are typically used to strike critical, vulnerable targets such as computerized command and control vehicles, radio trucks, radar antennae, vehicle engine blocks and the jet engines of enemy aircraft. Anti-materiel rifles can be used against human targets, but the much higher weight of rifle and ammunition, and the massive recoil and muzzle blast, usually make them less than practical for such use. The Barrett M82 is credited with a maximum effective range of 1800 m (1.1 mile); and it was with a .50BMG caliber McMillan TAC-50 rifle that Canadian Master Corporal Rob Furlong made the longest recorded confirmed sniper kill in history, when he shot a Taliban fighter at a range of 2,430 meters (1.51 miles) in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda in 2002.[3]

Bullet RPM

Bullets leaving a rifled barrel can spin at over 300,000rpm depending on the muzzle velocity of the bullet and the pitch of the rifling. The rotational speed of the bullet can be calculated by using the formula below where MV is muzzle velocity. A bullet with a muzzle velocity of 3000 feet per second leaving a barrel that twists once per foot would rotate at 180,000rpm.[4]

  • MV x (12/twist rate in inches) x 60 = Bullet RPM

Example [Barrel is a 1/8 Twist, the bullets MV is 3000]

  • 3000 x (12/8) x 60 = 270,000

Excessive rotational speed can exceed the bullet's designed limits and the resulting centrifugal force can cause the bullet to disintegrate in a radial fashion.[5]

See also



External sources

  • Friedrich Engels, “On Rifled Cannon," articles from the New York Tribune, April, May and June, 1860, reprinted in Military Affairs 21, no. 4 (Winter 1957) ed. Morton Borden, 193-198.

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Rifle [1] is a town in the northwestern part of the state of Colorado, in the United States of America.

  • Rifle Mountain Park, Located just 13 miles North of Rifle, serves as one of America's premiere sport climbing destinations. The climbing season runs from mid-April through late October. Climbers can pay a daily entrance fee of $4 or purchase a yearly pass for $40. Camping is available in designated sites for $7 per night.

Mountain biking is also a popular sport in this area. Check with Colorado Custom Cycles, 230 Railroad Ave, 970 625-6188.

  • The Brickyard Square, 115 E 3rd St.,(970)625-3139. A mouth-watering menu, a 60-bottle wine list, and a 400-watt sound system are reason enough to visit this fine dining & entertainment venue. The elegant decor & atmosphere are reason to keep coming back. Offering exquisite food & the best stage for music & other live entertainment, the Brickyard has quickly become a center of activity for the community of Rifle. Sit down for a drink at the enormous bar, made of granite and marble pieces from Italy, Brazil and Guatemala. Relax & enjoy an evening of delicious food & fine drink at Rifle's hotspot.
  • Rifle Golf Course [2] three miles North of Rifle, could easily be one of the most scenic and spectacular 18-hole championship courses in Colorado. This beautiful and pristine course, designed by Richard M. Phelps, uses all of the area's natural beauty. Worth the visit and good value. Back 9 is best.
  • Lakota Canyon [3] Is another awesome local course. Hard to say to much about this course, other than it is difficult!
Routes through Rifle
Grand JunctionPalisade  W noframe E  Glenwood SpringsDenver
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

The rifle is a gun with a stock to brace against the shoulder and a barrel with twisting grooves. The grooves are called "rifling" and make bullets spin as they fly through the air.

Rifles are made to shoot many different sizes of bullets and different amounts of gun powder. Rifles are usually made to be able to hit targets far away from the shooter.

Modern rifles are made for many different purposes. Some are made for hunting animals. Some are made for soldiers to use in war. Some are made for police to have in case they need them. Some are made for target shooting.

Rifles can work in different ways. Some rifles have what is called a bolt action, where a small handle is used to move a part of the rifle, letting the shooter put a bullet in ready for firing and taking that bullet to the right place in the rifle. The rifle in the picture above is a bolt action. Some are semi-automatics, where several bullets are put in at once. When the trigger is pulled, the bullet is fired and the next one is brought into place. Some are fully automatic, which work like semi-automatics but allow the shooter to fire more than one bullet at a time by holding down the trigger.

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