1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rifle

RIFLE, a firearm which may be shortly defined as a musket in which, by grooves (cf. Ger. riffeln, to groove) in the bore or otherwise, the projectile is forced to rotate before leaving the barrel. This rotatory motion, maintained during flight, equalizes any irregularities in the form or weight of the bullet, and so lessens the tendency to depart from a straight line, and also in a measure overcomes atmospheric resistance. Rifling was invented about 1520, by Gaspard Koller or Kollner, a gunmaker of Vienna, according to some authorities; by August Kotter of Nuremberg, according to others. It has been said that at first the grooves were made straight, with the object of admitting a tight-fitting bullet and relieving the effects of fouling, and that the virtue of spiral grooving was subsequently discovered by accident. But this theory is unsupported. The earliest known rifle barrels have spiral grooving. The amount of turn varied in old rifles from a half or three-quarters turn to one turn in two to three feet. The form and depth of the grooving and the number of grooves also greatly varied.

Historical Development of Military Rifles.—For the chief infantry firearms that preceded the modern military ride, see Gun, Arms and Armour (firearms), Arquebus, &c. Rifles were at first used for amusement. There are, however, instances of their occasional employment in war in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1631 the landgrave of Hesse had a troop of riflemen. Ten years later Maximilian of Bavaria had several troops armed with rifled arquebuses. Louis XIII. armed his bodyguard with rifles. Napoleon withdrew the ride from those of his troops to whom it had been issued during the wars of the Republic, nor did the French make any considerable use of it again until 1830, when the Chasseurs d’Orléans were armed with it for the invasion of Algeria. The British learnt the value of rifles during the American War of Independence, when the government subsidized continental Jägers armed with rifles to oppose the American riflemen. After the war these corps disappeared, and though they are now represented by the 60th (King’s Royal) Rifles, the senior rifle corps in the British Army is the Ride Brigade, raised in 1800 as the 95th Regiment and armed with a flint-lock weapon known as “Baker’s Rifle,” which weighed 91/2 ℔. The barrel was 21/2 ft. long, its calibre 20-bore, with seven grooves making a quarter-turn in its length. A small wooden mallet was at first supplied with this rifle to make the ball enter the barrel, and it was loaded with great difficulty. In 1826 Delvigne, a French infantry officer, invented a breech with abrupt shoulders on which the spherical bullet was rammed down until it expanded and filled the grooves. The objection was that the deformed bullet had an erratic flight. Delvigne’s system was subsequently improved upon by Thouvenin, who introduced into the breech an iron stem, upon which the bullet, now of conical form, rested, and was expanded by a sharp blow with the iron ramrod when loading. In William IV.’s reign the Brunswick percussion rifle[1] was introduced into the British rifle regiments. Its weight with bayonet was 11 ℔ 51/2 oz.; length of barrel, 2 ft. 6 in., with two grooves making one turn in the length of the barrel; weight of spherical belted bullet, 557 grs.; diameter, ·704 in.; charge of powder, 21/2 drs. This rifle was not easily loaded, soon fouled, and shot wild beyond 400 yds.

In 1835 W. Greener produced a new expansive bullet, an oval ball, a diameter and a half in length, with a flat end, perforated, in which a cast metallic taper plug was inserted. The explosion of the charge drove the plug home, expanded the bullet, filled the grooves and prevented windage. A trial of the Greener bullet in August 1835 proved successful. The range and accuracy of the rifle were retained, while the loading was made as easy as with a smooth-bore musket. The invention was, however, rejected by the military authorities on the ground that the bullet was a compound one. In 1852 the Government awarded Minié, a Frenchman, £20,000 for a bullet of the same principle adopted into the British service. In 1857 Greener received a belated reward of £1000 for “the first public suggestion of the principle of expansion.” The Minié bullet contained an iron cup in a cavity at the base of the bullet. In 1851 a rifled musket of the Minié pattern was introduced into the British army, and, though not generally issued, was used in the Kaffir War of 1851, and in the Crimea. Its weight with bayonet was 10 ℔ 83/4 oz., length of barrel 3 ft. 3 in., with four grooves making one turn in 72 in.; diameter of bore ·702 inch; charge of powder 21/2 drs., and sighted from 100 to 1000 yds. The form of its bullet was at first conoidal, afterwards changed to cylindro-conoidal, with a hemispherical iron cup. In 1855 the Enfield rifle, having in a series of trials competed favourably with the Minié and Lancaster rifles, was introduced into the British army; it was used during the latter part of the Crimean war, having there replaced the Minié rifle and the percussion musket, and remained the general weapon of the entire infantry until the introduction of the breech-loader in the year 1867. This rifle weighed, with bayonet, 9 ℔ 3 oz., barrel 39 in.; diameter of bore ·577 in.; three-grooved, with one turn in 78 in. It fired a bullet of cylindro-conoidal form with hollow base, weighing 530 grains, made up into cartridges and lubricated as for the Minié rifle, adapted to this rifle by Pritchett, who was awarded £1000 by the Government. This bullet was wrapped in greased paper round the cylindrical part half-way up its length. Short rifles of the same pattern, with five-grooved barrels 2 ft. 9 in. long and a sword bayonet, were supplied to the 60th Rifles and to the Rifle Brigade. Two small carbines of the same principle were at this time introduced for the cavalry and artillery, also a rifled pistol.

Fig. 1.—Snider Rifle. (Text Book of Small  Arms, by permission of the Controller,
 H.M. Stationery Office.)

In 1854, on the suggestion of General Lord Hardinge, Sir Joseph Whitworth, the first mechanician of the day, began to consider the subject of rifling, and after a long series of experiments the Whitworth rifle was produced with hexagonal bore, ·45-in. calibre, and with one turn in 20 in. It was tried at Hythe in 1857, and completely defeated the Enfield rifle up to 1800 yds. upon a fixed rest. This trial and Whitworth’s experiments proved the advantages of a sharp twist, a smaller bore, and elongated projectile; but Whitworth’s rifle was never adopted into the Government service, probably because the hexagonal rifling wore badly, and owing to the difficulty of equal mechanical perfection in all similar rifles and ammunition. Several improvements were subsequently made in the sighting, grooving and some other details of the Enfield rifle. In 1855 a boxwood plug to the bullet was used.

Between 1857 and 1861 four breech-loading carbines were experimentally introduced in the cavalry—viz. Sharp’s, Terry’s, Green’s, and Westley-Richards’. Sharp’s and other breech loading carbines and also Spencer repeating carbines were used by the Federal cavalry in the American Civil War. The general adoption of the breech-loading principle may be said to date from 1867. The Prussians were the first to see its great advantages and about 1841 had adopted the celebrated needle-gun (q.v.), a bolt-action weapon. In 1864 and 1866 committees were appointed by the British War Office to report on breech-loading arms, and after protracted experiments, Jacob Snider’s method of conversion of the muzzle-loading Enfield to a breech loader (fig. 1) was adopted, with the metallic cartridge-case improved in 1867 by Colonel Boxer, R.A. All available Enfield rifles were thus converted, and new arms made with steel barrels instead of iron. Great Britain was the first to adopt for her army a breech-loading rifle with metallic cartridge-case, which secured the perfect obturation of the breech. The Snider breech was a hinged block, a type much in favour at the time. The French similarly converted their muzzle-loaders, the converted weapon being known as the Tabatiére or snuff-box. Other breech actions on the same principle were the Austrian Werndl and the Bavarian Podewils and Werder rifles. But these were only transitional arms. In 1866 France adopted the bolt-action Chassepot (q.v.); in 1867 Sweden the Hagstrom, and Russia the Carte; in 1868 Italy the Carcano. All these were breech loaders Bring paper cartridges containing their own means of ignition. After further experiments by a fresh committee the Martini-Henry rifle (fig. 2) was definitely adopted by the British Government in 1871, with the short chamber Boxer-Henry ammunition. This rifle was a combination of Martini’s block action breech mechanism with Henry’s barrel of ·45-in. calibre, firing a papered bullet of 480 grains from Boxer cases with a wad of wax lubrication at base of bullet, as proposed by Henry. The Henry rifling had seven grooves with one turn in 22 in.; the lands and the centres of the grooves were contained in the same circle. About the same time or a little later the various powers re-armed their infantry with breech-loaders of different patterns and names, all of which were of about 11 mm. (·433 in.) calibre, and nearly all of the bolt-action type.

Fig. 2.—Martini-Henry.

The next stage in the history of military firearms was the introduction of the repeating or magazine system. The Winchester rifle, an American invention which appeared in 1865, was one of the earliest magazine rifles. This weapon was used by Turkey to some extent in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, but Germany was the first great power to provide its army with a magazine rifle. In 1884 it converted the 1871 pattern Mauser of ·443-in. bore into a magazine rifle, holding eight cartridges in a tube magazine in the fore end. In 1885 France followed with the Lebel, which had an enormous advantage in its smokeless powder. In 1886 the question of the best calibre for small arms was reopened in England. In this year, 1886, Austria had adopted a Mannlicher rifle, ·433 bore, with a straight pull bolt. This rifle was the first adopted by any European nation embodying Lee’s box magazine, an invention patented in 1879 and 1882, and consisting of a box, in rear of and below the entrance to the chamber, containing the cartridges. Another important improvement, the steel clip loaders containing five cartridges, was also introduced with this rifle. In 1888 these rifles were converted to ·315 bore, firing black powder cartridges; and in 1890, on the introduction of smokeless powder, the sights were re-graduated. In 1887 the British Small Arms Committee, after experiments with the small-calibre rifle invented in 1883 by the Swiss Major Rubin, director of the Federal laboratory at Thun, recommended the small calibre for adoption into the British service. The essential features of Rubin’s system were the employment of a compound bullet with a leaden core in a copper envelope, and the use of a compressed charge of black powder. In 1888 a pattern of ·303-in. calibre rifle, rifled on the Metford system and with the improved Lee bolt and magazine, was approved for trial by British troops. The Metford rifling is as follows:—diameter of bore, ·303 in.; depth of rifling, ·004 in.; width of lands, ·023 in.; twist of rifling, one turn in 10 in. (left-hand); radial grooves, seven in number. About 1862, and later, W. E. Metford had carried out an exhaustive series of experiments on bullets and rifling. He invented the important system of light rifling, with increasing spiral with a hardened bullet. The Metford match rifle was prominent in all N.R.A. competitions from 1871 to 1894. In 1887 he laid down for the Small Arms Committee the proper proportions for the grooving, spiral and cartridge chamber of the ·303 military rifle. This weapon proved satisfactory and was adopted by the War Office as the Lee-Metford rifle, Mark I., in December 1888. It had a magazine of eight cartridges. In 1891 the Mark II. pattern was approved, with a ten-cartridge magazine, a simplified bolt, and many minor improvements. A magazine carbine with barrel 21 in. long and a six-cartridge magazine, otherwise identical with the Lee-Metford Mark II., was also approved. The Lee-Metford Mark II. rifle was subsequently further improved in its rifling to resist the wear of smokeless powder, and also in its bolt action, and became known as the Lee-Enfield rifle, and under that name was officially adopted as the rifle of the British army. The number of grooves were reduced from seven to five. Neither the Lee-Metford nor the Lee-Enfield has increasing spiral grooves, which are found inconvenient for military arms from a manufacturing point of view.[2] The L.M. and L.E. carbines are similar to the shorter models of the rifles, but are covered for the whole length of the barrel by a wooden hand guard and take only six cartridges; the fore-sights are protected by wings on the nose-cap, and the long-range sights are omitted. These, as also the Martini-Metford and Martini-Enfield carbines (falling-block action small-bores), have practically been replaced by the “short” rifle described below.

The efficiency of the modern small-bore magazine rifle is largely due to the production of smokeless nitro-compound powder. France was the first country to adopt, about 1885, a smokeless powder with the Lebel magazine rifle. It was known as “Vieille” powder, or “Poudre B” (after General Boulanger). Since then smokeless explosives have been universally adopted in all small-bore magazine military rifles. The smokeless explosive known as “Cordite” or “Cordite M.D.” (see Cordite) is used for the cartridges of the Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield rifles and rifle-calibre machine guns.  (H. S.-K.) 

Military Rifles of To-day.—About 1900, the various armies were equipped with weapons of nearly equal efficiency. The weights varied between 81/4 and 91/4 ℔, the lengths between 49 and 52 in.; the calibres were ·315, ·311, ·303, with one or two ·256. None of the rifles were sighted to less than 2000 yds., and nearly all had a “fixed” or “battle” sight. All were bolt-action rifles, and had a muzzle velocity of about 2000 f.s. (the ·256 Mannlichers, about 2300 f.s.). Except France, with the tube-magazine Lebel, Denmark and the U.S.A. with the horizontal-box Krag-Jörgensen, and Great Britain, all nations used multiple-loading by clip or charger. With Lebel and Krag-Jörgensen weapons, multiple-loading is a practical impossibility, but in Great Britain the charger was deliberately rejected. It was desired to use the rifle normally as a single-loader, and to reserve the magazine (which held ten cartridges, or twice as many as the multiple-loading Mausers, Mannlichers, &c.) for emergencies; But from about 1903 this equivalence of infantry weapons began to be disturbed by two new influences: the tendency towards a “short” rifle, and the introduction of the pointed bullet.

In the first, Switzerland took the lead with the short Schmidt-Rubin in 1900; But amongst the greater powers, England and the United States alone have followed her example. At the close of the South African War Great Britain issued 1000 short Lee-Enfield rifles experimentally, and in 1903 the “short rifle” was actually approved and issued generally. Since then it has been improved in details. The barrel was shortened by 5 in., multiple-loading by charger was introduced, and by the Musketry Regulations of 1909 magazine fire was laid down as the normal, single-loading being forbidden. The change met with very considerable opposition, especially from target-shooting experts, who maintained that a long rifle, so perfected in details as to be equal to the short in every point except in length, must be more accurate. The view of the military authorities, which was maintained in spite of criticism, was that for service purposes, and especially for prolonged snap-shooting, the handier weapon was preferable. One important factor in the decision was the desire to give the cavalry a weapon with which, when dismounted, it could fight the infantry rifle on equal terms. A more serious objection than that of want of superfine accuracy in bull’s-eye shooting was the loss of 5 in. of reach in bayonet fighting. This objection was met in 1907 by the introduction of a new pattern bayonet with a blade 5 in. longer. In 1908 the long Lee-Enfield and Lee-Metford rifles in store were converted for charger-loading (fig. 3), fitted with safety catches and new sights, and issued to the infantry of the Territorial Force in 1909 and 1910. For target purposes many rifle shots prefer this converted. weapon to the short rifle (fig. 4). The United States in 1904 replaced the Krag-Jörgensen (hand loading horizontal magazine) by the short Springfield. A sort of spring bayonet was at first fitted to this rifle, but it was soon replaced by an ordinary sword bayonet.

Fig. 3.-Charger-loading L.E. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)


Fig 4.—L.E. Short Rifle. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)

The pointed bullet (“Spitz-geschoss” or “S”) was introduced by Germany in 1905, and her example was quickly followed by France (balle D) and other powers. Its advantage is a considerable flattening of the trajectory, chiefly on account of the lessened resistance of the air. This latter allows of a reduction in the sectional density and consequently in the weight of the bullet. Thus velocities up to 2900 foot-seconds are realized, which enables the “dangerous space” to be very greatly augmented (see fig. 20). The “fixed sight” range with the “S” bullet is 700 yds., as against the Lee-Enfield’s 500. It was announced in the House of Commons in 1910 that a modified bullet was being experimented with, and that some increase in the fixed-sight range was expected to be obtained, but the relatively weak breech action of the Lee-Enfield—which is due chiefly to the rearward position of the locking lugs—does not allow designers much freedom in the matter.of increasing velocities, as the chamber pressure has to be kept low. It will be seen from the table that other rifles are constructed to stand a much higher pressure.

But both these improvements are destined to be eclipsed in importance by the adoption of the automatic rifle. The application of the automatic principle to the modern high velocity small-arm of precision has been occupying the attention of the small-arms experts of all armies and of numerous private inventors for some years past. These numerous attempts have, in the case of the rifle, been largely doomed to failure because of the necessary limitations of space and weight; although the automatic principle has been successfully applied both to machine guns (q.v.) and to pistols (q.v.). In these weapons the work of extracting the empty cartridge-case, re-loading and re-cocking, is accomplished either by the motive power of the recoil or of the gas generated by the explosion of the powder, thus enabling a rapid and continuous fire to be maintained to the full capacity of the weapon’s magazine. fIn the case of machine guns the hring also is automatic, but self firing rifles are not very desirable as infantry weapon sand in addition are so heavy as to approximate to machine guns.

Of the recoil-operated class of automatic rifles there are two subdivisions, “short-recoil” and “long-recoil.” In the former, which is most favoured by inventors, the barrel, body and bolt recoil together for a short distance, about 1/4 in., in which space the bolt is unlocked, and the bolt then recoils freely in the body. The bolt is run forward in reloading by a spring. In the long-recoil type the barrel, body and bolt recoil the whole distance, and the barrel and body are run up by one spring, the bolt by another. Several such rifles have been shown at the N.R.A. meetings at Bisley; the Rexer, Mauser and Woodgate rifles being on the long-recoil, the Hallé on the short recoil principle. Gas-operated rifles, like the Hotchkiss and Colt machine guns, have fixed barrels and are worked, by a portion of the powder-gases which is allowed to escape from the barrel through a small hole near the muzzle, thence entering a cylinder and working a piston in connexion with the breech mechanism. No automatic rifle has as yet (August 1910) been issued as a service weapon by any power, the problem of ensuring certainty in action under service conditions—i.e. with grit and dirt in the working parts—being the principal difficulty.

Great Britain.—There are two principal types of Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield rifles in the service, the “short” and the “charger-loading.” The former is carried by all units (cavalry included) of the regular army, by the yeomanry cavalry of the Territorial Force, and by units of the Officers’ Training Corps. The latter is used by the infantry of the Territorial Force. There exist, further, the older, non-charger-loading Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield rifles, a few carbines of the same type, and some Martini-Metford and Martini-Enfield carbines which have the ·303 barrel and cartridge with the falling-block Martini action. ·45 Martini-Henry rifles and carbines, and even Sniders, are still used by local police forces in some of the smaller colonies.

The “long” charger-loading Lee-Enfield is converted from earlier patterns by the addition of a charger guide, the stripping of the bolt-cover, and improvements in the sighting. The action of the breech mechanism[3] is as follows (the breech mechanism of the “short” rifle being practically the same): The breech is closed by a bolt (I) which slides in a bolt-way cut in the body; the bolt-head (Io) abuts against the base of the cartridge when the rifle is loaded, and when the knob is turned down the whole is locked. On the right side of the bolt is a solid rib, and on the left side a lug; these support the bolt on firing by contact with the “resisting shoulder on the right, and the rear face of the “lug seating” on the left of the body. Underneath the bolt there are two recesses and two studs. The bolt-head is screwed to the bolt and is fitted with an extractor claw. The bolt-head, instead of being rigidly attached to the bolt, is so far independent that it remains stationary while the bolt is revolved. Inside the bolt is the arrangement of striker (V) and spring (W), and at its rear end, forming the working connexion between trigger and striker, is the “cocking piece” (X) which is fitted with a safety-catch (not in the old pattern rifle illustrated). This cocking-piece which cannot turn) has a long tongue projecting to the front, lying along the under side of the bolt, and the front end of this tongue (Y), called the “full-bent,” engages the nose of the trigger sear when the weapon is loaded. (a groove in the tongue, called the “half-bent” (Z), serves as a half-cock arrangement, and could be used as a safety-catch if the proper safety-catch were damaged). The trigger sear (K) is a bell-crank lever, the upper long arm of which is put in and out of contact with the “full-bent,” and the lower or short arm is connected to the trigger. The magazine holds ten cartridges, which rest on a platform, underneath which is the magazine spring that pushes the platform and cartridges up. A “cut-off,” is fitted in the “long” and in some marks of the “short” rifle. This is a sort of lid to the magazine, enabling the magazine to be kept full while the rifle is being used as a single loader. But the present musketry regulations forbid single-loading, and the cut-off is now only closed for special purposes, such as unloading a single cartridge (miss-fire, &c.) without unloading the magazine. The magazine is loaded by inserting a charger in the “charger guides” (these, attached to the body, form a sort of bridge over the bolt) and forcing down the strip of cartridges into the magazine (charger guides not shown in diagrams). The action of the mechanism is as follows: Suppose that the rifle has been fired and the magazine is full. On beginning to turn up the knob of the bolt, the after is revolved, but the cocking-piece (the tongue being held by a groove in the body) and the bolt-head remain stationary. Soon, however, a cam on the bolt comes in contact with a stud on the cocking-piece and the latter is brought slightly to the rear, pulling in the point of the striker and partly compressing the spring. At the same time the lug on the left of the bolt, in contact with the front face of a recess in the body (both being cut slantwise to a screw pitch), forces the bolt and with it the claw of the extractor, which rips the base of the cartridge-case, to slide backwards a little. As the bolt continues to turn the rib on the right of it comes up clear of the body and the whole bolt, with the bolt-head, can thus be drawn back until the bolt-head comes against the resisting shoulder on the right of the body and the extractor attached to it flings out the fired cartridge-case. Another cartridge then comes up from the magazine and lies in front of the bolt-head ready to be pushed home. At this moment (the beginning of loading) the stud on the cocking piece has fallen into one of the grooves on the bolt, and as the bolt is pushed forward the tongue or full-bent comes against the nose of the trigger sear and is held there, while the rest of the bolt mechanism goes on. Thus between the moving bolt and the fixed cocking-piece the striker spring is further compressed, and when the sloping faces of the bolt lugs and ribs engage the resisting portions of the body a last forward push is given to the bolt and the spring is completely compressed, readly to propel the striker forward when the full-bent is released from the nose of the sear. Figs. 5–8 of the older pattern rifle show the working of the breech mechanism. Instead of the older single pull-off of the, trigger the “short” rifle, like many Continental weapons, has a double pull-off. This is provided for by suitably shaping the portion of the trigger which is in contact with the short arm of the sear. The “short” rifle has also a somewhat different pattern of safety-catch.

Figs 5 and 6.—Lee Metford.

Figs. 7 and 8.—Lee-Metford.

The sights of British service rifles up to 1903 were of a very simple type, the fore-sight a “barleycorn” of triangular shape, and the back-sight a plain leaf with sliding bar into which a V was cut, the tip of the fore-sight seen in the middle of the V being brought on to the mark. In the long charger-loader this form of back-sight has been greatly modified, an in the “short” rifle it as been altogether abolished. The barleycorn fore-sight has been replaced in both cases by an upright blade protected from injury by two ears or wings and the V by a U aperture. For elevation the long rifle has still a slide on a vertical leaf, but the movement of this slide is controlled no longer merely by its tight fit but by a clamping screw. The sight of the short rifle is larger and also quite different in appearance and principle. There is a leaf and on it a slide, but the slide (controlled by clamping studs) works on a cam-shaped bed; its position on the leaf, affecting the point of contact with the cam-shaped bed, elevates the leaf to the required amount, the actual sighting U being on the extremity of the leaf. The short rifle has also a “fine adjustment” which admits of minor changes of elevation within the usual 50 yds. graduation. Both the long and the short rifles have “wind-gauges,” or mechanisms for fine lateral adjustment of the central U sighting aperture, so as to point the axis of the barrel a little to the left or the right of the line of sight to compensate for wind, error of the individual rifle, &c. In both rifles, on the left side of the stock, is a long-distance sight (graduated to 2800 yds.), which consists of an aperture sight near the bolt and a dial and movable pointer near the hand-guard. The short rifle is cased from breech to muzzle in a wooden hand-guard; all patterns of long rifle have only a short wooden hand-guard just behind the back-sight bed. The bayonet in the long rifle is secured to. the fore-end by a spring catch and to the barrel by a ring passing over the muzzle. is tradition, and still usual, arrangement has been abandoned in the short rifle, as the vibration of the barrel on discharge is more or less checked by the extra weight of the bayonet, and therefore the shooting of the rifle differs according as it is fired with or without the bayonet fixed. With the short rifle the bayonet is fixed to two metal fastenings, a plug for the ring and a catch for the handle.

Continental European Rifles.—These are for the most part of the Mauser and the Mannlicher types. The Mauser is a bolt weapon with box magazine. The bolt is simple, without separate bolt-head, and is held by two bolt-lugs at its front end engaging with recesses in the body (the German Mauser has an extra lug near the rear end). Near the rear end there is a cam-shaped recess, which, engaging with a stud on the cocking-piece, partially forces back the cocking-piece and spring when the bolt is revolved. When bolt lever is turned up and the bolt begins in revolve, the cocking-piece and bolt plug, which together form the connexion between the bolt and the trigger, do not revolve, but are forced back slightly, so as to begin the compression of the striker spring. Then, the bolt lever being so shaped as to bear against an inclined-plane edge on the body, the bolt, comes back a little, and with it the extractor jaw and the empty cartridge-case. Lastly, when the bolt has turned through a right angle, all studs are opposite their slots and ways in the body, and the bolt can be drawn back. At the farthest rearward position of the bolt the cocking-stud on the cocking-piece is well behind the nose of the trigger sear, and is thus held when the bolt is pushed forward again, the spring being thereby compressed. All Mauser rifles have a safety-catch and a double pull-off. None have cut-offs except the Turkish pattern. All are constructed for clip or charger loading, but the box magazine contains only five cartridges as against the Lee-Enfield’s ten. Mauser rifles, which are perhaps the strongest and least complicated of magazine arms, are used in the German, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish armies, and were also used by the Boers in the South African War. The type adopted by each of these nations differs from the rest in details only. The German rifle has a long guardless sword bayonet, fixed to the fore-end only and not connected with the barrel, and a peculiar form of back-sight, which bears some resemblance to the slide and bed arrangement of the British “short” rifle. The special feature of the Belgian Mauser is a thin steel casing for the barrel, which is supposed to act as a hand-guard or cooler and to free the barrel from disturbing influences due to its connexion with the fore-end; but it is expensive, and if strong adds unduly to the weight of the weapon. The older German magazine rifle, pattern 1888, had a barrel casing, but this was given up when the new 1898 pattern was introduced. The bayonets of the Belgian and Spanish patterns are very short knives.

Fig. 9.—Belgian Mauser. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)

Fig. 9a.—Spanish Mauser. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)

Fig. 10.—German Mauser, 1898. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)

Fig. 11.—Austrian Mannlicher, 1895. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)

Fig. 12.—Mannlicher, 1890.

The Mannlicher rifle, which is extensively used for sporting and target work, has been adopted for military purposes by various states, notably Austria-Hungary. Both the 1890 and 1895 patterns of Austrian Mannlicher have “straight-pull” bolts; that is, bolts which are not turned for locking. The bolts are in two parts, which “telescope” into each other. In the 1890 pattern (see fig. 12), when the bolt I is home against the cartridge and the “lever cylinder” I′, which carries the bolt knob, is further pushed forward, the hinged block R is caused to drop in front of the resistance-piece Q, and so locks the bolt I against the cartridge. In the 1895 pattern (see fig. 13). the final pushing forward of the lever cylinder causes the head of the bolt I to turn and projections on its head to lock into recesses SS just in rear of the breech. The turning is due to helical feathers (20) on the inside. of the lever cylinder I′ working in grooves in the rear of the bolt I. The 1890 pattern has a double pull-off. It will be seen from the figure that as the trigger is pulled the bearing is taken first at (8) and then at (9). This gives, owing to the change of leverage, power at the commencement and rapidity at the end of the pull. The weapon is at clip loader. The Dutch, Rumanian and other Mannlichers have not straight-pull bolts, but the usual turn-over levers and locking-lugs.

Fig. 13.—Mannlicher, 1895.

Fig. 14.—Austrian Mannlicher Carbine. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)

France.—The breech mechanism of this rifle (see fig. 15) calls for no special remark. Its bolt is very similar to that of the British rifle. Its special peculiarity is the once popular tube magazine under the fore-end. This box magazine. It is more has many defects as compared with the cumbrous for the same number of cartridges; its feed and cut-off mechanism is very complicated; the balance of the rifle is altered as the magazine empties; the placing of the cartridges base to point, even when the bullet has a flat point, is not unattended with danger, especially when the magazine is full and the spiral spring strongly compressed; lastly, loading by any form of charger is practically impossible.

Fig. 16.—Lebel Rifle.

United States.—Up to 1904 the U.S. army had the Krag-Jörgensen rifle, in which, as shown in fig. 17, the magazine was placed horizontally under the breech action. At this time most of the second line troops had still the old-fashioned (black powder) Springfield rifle, a single loader with a hinged block similar to the rifles of the “sixties” in Europe, such as the Snider, the Tabatiere and the Werndl.[4] Since 1904, however, the regular army has been re-armed with a short rilie (fig. 18) which in its action has a general resemblance to a Mauser. As at first issued, the new Springfield had a rod bayonet which, when not in use, lay within the fore-end of the stock, and when required was run forward and fastened by a catch. This novelty was, however, soon discarded in favour of a sword bayonet 16 in long. The United States navy had until about 1900 the Lee “straight-pull” rifle. The Russian “3-line” and the Japanese “30th year” (1900) and “38th year” (1907) rifles are bolt-action weapons, with no special peculiarities. The Swiss rifle (Schmidt-Rubin) is a remarkable weapon of the straight-pull type, short, and possessing a. relatively low velocity. (X.) 

Fig. 17.—Krag-Jörgensen.

Fig. 18.—U.S. Short Rifle. (Text Book of Small Arms, by permission.)

The Use of the Rifle in War.—The study of “musketry” as distinct from target shooting may be said to date from the Franco-German War. Previously military students and practical soldiers concerned themselves rather with the tactical question of fire-power—fire versus shock, bullet versus bayonet and so on—than with the technical question of its application. This was natural enough in the days of short-range fighting. But when bullets began to cause losses at 1000 yds. and more from the firing point, formations that presented the least vulnerable target had to be discovered and tested, aiming grew more difficult as the range increased, and firing by word of command in large units became practically impossible. The very accuracy and range of modern weapons involved new problems. The necessity, in the larger area of effective fire, of setting the sights to the distance of the mark made further demands on fire-discipline and brought up the difficult problem of judging distance. The possibilities of varying the rate of fire conferred by the magazine rifle also demanded close study. Each war, as it came, produced fresh evidence as to what was possible and what was not in matters of, fire-control, the best rate of fire for effect, the range at which fire should be opened, and other half-tactical, half technical problems. Thus, although many points still remain in the region of controversy, certain ideas and principles are almost universally accepted as the basis of service musketry.

The leading idea is that of the “cone of dispersion.” A modern rifle, even fired from a fixed rest under good conditions, will not place shot after shot in the same spot, but the shot marks on the target form a more or less close “group.” When to this error of the rifle and the ammunition there is added the personal error of the marksman, the group is larger, and in the collective fire of a squad it is larger still. Now the trajectories of bullets that do not strike in the same place naturally do not coincide, and the group on the target is represented in the air by a cone or sheaf of trajectories. The bullets of this sheaf striking the ground on either side of the target form on the ground a much elongated ellipse. The ellipse containing 90% of the bullets fired is called the beaten zone. It is usual, however, to calculate from the “effective” zone, or that which contains 75% of bullets. Within the “effective” zone, and at its centre, is found the closely grouped “nucleus” of 50% of bullets. With the British ·303 rifle in collective fire, the depths of these zones are:—

Nucleus. Effective. Beaten.
 500 yds. 120 yds. 220 yds. 320 yds.
1000 yds.  70 yds. 120 yds. 170 yds.
1500 yds.  60 yds. 100 yds. 140 yds.

The target aimed at and sighted for is at the centre of the zone (see fig. 19). The height of the grouping on a vertical target compared to the depth of the grouping on the ground is of course proportionate to the tangent of the angle of descent; hence, small as is the group on a vertical target at 500 yds., the beaten zone is no less than 320 yds. deep. For the same reason, as the range, and consequently the angle of descent, increases, the beaten zone diminishes in depth. Another factor is the “dangerous space.” This is the space between “first catch,” i.e. the point at which the bullet (in a sheaf, the lowest bullet) comes low enough to catch a man’s head, and “first graze,” that at which it strikes the ground. The extent of this dangerous space varies of course with the height of the man’s head. In the case of a mounted man, at 1000 yds., it is 105 yds., while in that of a sharpshooter lying down, it is only 13 yds. (in addition of course to the beaten zone). As nowadays nearly all targets, on service, are lying or three quarters concealed figures, the dangerous space as compared with the beaten zone is at such a range too small to count as a factor. It is, however, important at shorter ranges, 500 yds. and under (700 and under with the new pointed bullets). Here the advantages of flat trajectory make themselves felt. Within this distance the bullet is at no point in its career too high to be dangerous to a standing man or a horseman. A lying figure is in danger at any distance beyond 350 yds. if the sights are set to 500 yds. (front half of effective zone 110 yds., dangerous space 52 yds.). This is the theory underlying the 500 yds. “fixed sight” or “battle-sight,” a setting which holds good for all less ranges, and can be put on the rifle instantly and without looking at the back-sight graduations.

Fig. 19.—Beaten Zone.

Fig. 20.—Trajectories.

These facts, taken in conjunction with the imperfections of the most skilful individual marksmanship and the chances of wrong estimation of distance, are the basis of the musketry training and practice of to-day. At the School of Musketry, Hythe, the standard of judging distance is “not more than 100 yds. wrong at any range.” Now at 1000 yds. an error in judging distance of 13 yds. above or below the true range will cause all the shots of a particular rifle to fall away from the target, and the better the marksman—i.e. the closer his group the more necessary is perfection in judging distance, a perfection which in reality seems unattainable. The British musketry regulations therefore lay it down that the individual marksman’s fire at service targets is unprofitable at ranges of more than 600 yds. Beyond that distance collective fire, controlled and directed by an officer or non-commissioned officer, is the rule. The question as to whether fire is to be opened in any given set of circumstances is decided by the fire director, who considers first whether the probable error in judging distance is greater than half of the effective zone for the estimated range. If it is so, he must order “combined sights,” i.e. half of the units under his command use one elevation, the rest another, which method artificially increases the dispersion of the bullets and thereby the probability of the target being included in the zone. This, however, makes the fire less effective, and in practice cannot profitably be used by any body of rifles of less than So or 100. The commander of only a single section, therefore, however tempting the target, must refrain from opening fire at all. At medium ranges, however, controlled and directed fire is effective, and at such ranges troops should still be sufficiently in hand to execute the fire-director’s orders. Within decisive ranges fire-direction has to give place to fire-control. All that the strongest commander can enforce is the opening and ceasing of fire when he gives the order, and success is sought through making the individual soldier skilful at rapid and snap shooting. Black bull’s-eyes on white targets are now used only to teach men to make uniformly good shooting, which is shown by the closeness of the shot-grouping. The rest of the musketry course s fired against grey-green “head and shoulders” targets or brown silhouettes, and consists of slow. rapid and snap shooting, from behind cover, at disappearing or running targets, &c. In 1909 special attention began to be paid to visual training, both as an aid to judging distance and as an actual ingredient of fire-discipline. A method of indicating targets which originated in the French army was adopted and improved upon, consisting essentially of giving two or three conspicuous “auxiliary marks,” in artillery language, and naming the target with reference to them. Judging distance is generally associated with fire-discipline practices, and men are frequently exercised in locating and ranging upon a hidden skirmisher, 300–800 yds. away. Perhaps the most important modification of musketry training, within recent years, has been the adoption of rapid fire in “bursts,” as the normal procedure for infantry, instead of slow continuous fire.

(From the British official Text Book of Small Arms, 1909.)

Pattern of the Year1895.1889.1889.1907.1907.1886.1898.
Mark I.
Mark III.
Magazine SystemBoxBox Horizontal-boxBoxBoxTubeBox
Number of Cartridges in Magazine555101085
Charger or ClipClipCh.Ch.Ch.Ch.NoCh.
Cut offNoNoYesYesYesYesNo
Safety BoltYesYesNoYesYesNoYes
 Without bayonet8 ℔ 51/2, oz.8 ℔ 1/2 oz.9 ℔ 113/4 oz.9 ℔ 4 oz.8 ℔ 21/2 oz.9 ℔ 31/2 oz.9 ℔.
 With bayonet8 ℔ 153/4 oz.9 ℔ 91/2 oz.10 ℔ 41/2 oz.10 ℔ 31/2 oz.9 ℔ 101/2 oz.10 ℔ 11/2 oz.9 ℔ 14 oz.
 Without bayonet4 ft. 2 in.4 ft. 2·25 in.4 ft. 4·75 in.4 ft. 1·5 in.3 ft. 8·5 in.4 ft. 3·12 in.4 ft. 1·4 in.
 With bayonet4 ft. 11·5 in.4 ft. 11·75 in.5 ft. 3 in.5 ft. 1·5 in.5 ft. 1·7 in.5 ft. 11·84 in.5 ft. 9·75 in.
 Length . . . . . . in.30·1230·6732·930·1925·1931·49629·05
 Calibre . . . . . . mm.87·6587·77·787·9
 Calibre . . . . . . in.·315·301·315·303·303·315·311
 Number of grooves4465544
 Twist (to right, except in Lee-
  Enfield and Lebel) 1 turn in
 Lowest for500 paces500 m.300 m.183 m.250 m.200 M.
(410 yds.)(547 yds.)(328 yds.)(200 yds.)(273 yds.)(219 yds.)
 Highest for2600 paces20001900 m.256020002000 m.
(2132 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2078 yds.)(2800 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2187 yds.)
 Length . . . . . . in.3·03·0553·03·052·953·223·18
 Weight . . . . . . grs.455441460415447415431369·9
 Shape of pointRoundRoundRoundRoundRound PointedRoundPointed
 Material of envelope Steel, lubricated C N.C.N.C.N.C.N. Copper zinc,
no envelope
 Steel, coated 
with C.N.
 Steel, coated 
with C.N.
 Length . . . . . . in.1·241·2051·1871·251·2211·6251·2351·105
 Diameter (max.)·3228·31·323·311·3228·327·3189·323
 Weight . . . . . . grs.244219237215231198227154·5
 Weight . . . . . . grs.42·443733·9531·542·4346·240·7548·4
 Propellant.N.C.N.G. and N.C.N.C.CorditeN.C.N.C.N.C.N.C.
Muzzle Velocity . . . . f.s.20342034196820602073238020932882
Chamber Pressure:—
 Tons on sq. in.19·719·715·115·517·7517·752117·5

Note.—C.N.=Cupro-nickel. N.G.=Nitro-glycerine. N.C.=Nitro-cellulose.

Mannlicher. Mannlicher-
Year ’38.Mauser-
Mannlicher. “3-Line”
Short Rifle.
8 ℔ 51/2 oz.9 ℔ 11 oz.8 ℔ 61/2 oz.8 ℔ 10 oz.8 ℔. 13 oz.8 ℔ 123/4 oz.8 ℔ 151/4 oz.9 ℔ 63/4 oz.8 ℔ 1/2 oz.9 ℔ 1 oz.8 ℔ 8 oz.
9 ℔10 ℔ 63/4 oz.9 ℔ 3 oz.9 ℔ 9 oz.9 ℔. 9 oz.9 ℔ 91/2 oz.9 ℔ 111/4 oz.10 ℔ 51/2 oz.8 ℔ 101/4 oz.10 ℔ 8 oz.9 ℔ 8 oz.
4 ft.4 ft. 3 in.4 ft. 2·75 in.4 ft. 2·75 in.4 ft.4 ft. 0·5 in.4 ft. 3·875 in.4 ft. 0·625 in.3 ft. 7·12 in.4 ft. 0·6 in.3 ft. 7·21 in.
4 ft. 10 in.5 ft. 0·75 in.5 ft. 2·375 in.5 ft. 5·75 in.4 ft. 11·25 in.4 ft. 10·25 in.5 ft. 9 in.4 ft. 10·5 in.4 ft. 10·75 in.5 ft. 6·6 in.4 ft. 11·21 in.
. .30·832·230·730·7630·831·531·43633·2. .
200 m.200 m.600 m.400 m.200 m.500 m.400 paces400 m.300 m.250 m.183 m.
(219 yds.)(219 yds.)(656 yds.)(437 yds.)(219 yds.)(547 yds.)(310 yds.)(437 yds.)(328 yds.)(273 yds.)(200 yds.)
2000 m.2000 m.2000 m.2000 m.2000 m.2000 m.2700 paces.2000 m.1200 m.2000 m.2187 m.
(2187 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2096 yds.)(2187 yds.)(1312 yds.)(2187 yds.)(2850 yds.)
 Steel, coated
with C. N.
 Steel, coated
with C. N.
C.N.Copper. .C.N.C. N.C.N.Nickel plated
steel envelope
over point
 Steel, coated
with C. N.
C.N. pointed
1·1241·231·1821·28. .1·2441·1941·211·181·2121·28
·263·2637·266·26. .·2637·308·2843·319·311·308
N.C.N.C.BalistiteN.C. N.G. and N.C.N.C.PyroxilineN.C.N.C.N.C. Pyro-cellulose
20·18. .17·1. .. .. .17·4722·317·119·719·78

The complete cessation of fire at intervals enables the leaders to observe the progress of the engagement, to change their target, to economize ammunition, to select the ground for the next rush and the next burst of fire, and to regain control-of the men, whom prolonged fire-fight hypnotizes and rivets to the ground, The chief use of “slow” fire, which is generally employed by skirmishers working in pairs, is to keep the enemy under; the storm of well-directed “rapid fire” the fire-director should hold in his own hands, ready to release it at the night moment. Slow fire averages 3 rounds a minute, rapid (aimed) 8–12. The configuration of the ground has often a great influence on fire effect. If the target is on a sharp forward slope, the beaten zone is greatly diminished in depth, ranging errors are no longer neutralized by the flatness of trajectory and (the bullets meeting the ground at a steeper angle) the dangerous space is reduced; if, on the other hand, the slope descends gently in rear of the target so that the falling -bullets instead of making a. pattern upon the ground, skim along parallel to the surface, the zone is increased. For instance, at 1500 yds., if there is a reverse slope of about 5° in rear of the target the depth of the beaten zone is tenfold that of the zone for the same range on level ground. Similarly if the target is on the crest of a hill and the firers below, the “over” half of the cone of fire may graze the reverse slope or pass far above, according as the reverse slope is gentle or sharp with respect to the line of sight.

The normal position for the firing infantryman in action is lying; the kneeling position is used for firing from behind cover, the sitting for firing down hill. Standing, formerly the usual position, is now employed chiefly for firing behind cover with the rifle rested, and-for snap-shooting during an advance when it is undesirable to halt and lie down. As regards cover, it may be mentioned that well-covered or in trenched troops generally shoot less accurately than troops in the open, the soldier in security being 10th to expose. himself long enough to take careful aim. This was particularly noticeable in the Russo-Turkish War, and its effect is to create a zone of unaimed fire behind the assailants’ fighting line, which sometimes causes serious losses to his supports and reserves. The relation between the cone of dispersion of peace-time experiments, even when these are specially designed to-establish that relation (for example, series fired in France by third-class shots, after a long march without food), has never been satisfactorily established. An arbitrary figure of one-tenth or one-twentieth of peace-time effect has generally been assumed as representing war results, but some think that however the normal cone may be multiplied or divided, no relation can be found between peace and war effect, and that in battle the brave men aim and fire as if on the practice range, and the rest ire absolutely at hazard. From a musketry point of view, this brings, again into the foreground the question of distance-judging, as, if the sights be wrongly set, the more accurate the fire the less its effect, and a mistake would nullify even the small amount of aimed fire that can be reckoned upon. Peace-time experiments have their value—and it is very great—in establishing data as to the effect of fire on troops in different formations, the limits of permissible error in ranging, &c., on the principle that of two methods, that which is proved to be better in peace would in much the same proportion be found better in war.  (C. F. A.) 

See T. F. Fremantle, The Book of the Rifle; W. W. Greener, The Gun and its Development; the British official Text Book of Small Arms (1909); and Musketry Regulations (1909); C. B. Mayne, Infantry Fire Tactics; and Taffin, “Tir de Combat” (Revue d’infanterie, 1909)

Match or Target Rifle.—The sport or pastime of target shooting has many times changed its character, owing to the steady improvement in the rifle and the different ranges or distances at which shooting is practised. Range usually governs the construction of the target rifle, long-range rifles not being necessarily the best weapons for a short range of, say, 200 yds. Limitations—such as the amount of powder charge, weight of bullet and rifle—are also usually imposed in order to place all competitors on equal terms. The long-range match rifle is not the superior of the military rifle as a weapon, but as a scientific shooting instrument is the best small-arm produced. The ordinary target rifle is a hybrid arm, combining the points of the long-range match, modern military and best sporting rifles. The miniature match rifle is used for short-range practice.

Shooting at fixed marks has been practised continuously in Switzerland from medieval times. A club (“Société de l’harquebuse et de la Navigation”) has existed in Geneva since 1474; and the Zürich “Schützen-Gesellschaft” since about the same date. It is not clear at what period rifles were introduced in these clubs. From the beginning of the 19th century up to 1844 the rifle generally used in Great Britain had a poly grooved barrel ·630 in. in diameter, with spherical ball, and the arm weighed from 11 to 15 ℔. It was not fired in military fashion, but had a handle extending downwards fixed in front of the trigger-guard, which was grasped by the left hand, the left arm being steadied against the body. This method of shooting is still sometimes followed by Swiss and German riflemen. Target shooting as a sport or business was rarely practised in Great Britain until after the formation of the Volunteer Force in 1859. The inauguration of the “National Rifle Association” in 1860 opened a new and most important era in the history and development of the rifle. This institution was established “for the encouragement of rifle corps and the promotion of rifle shooting throughout Great Britain. . . . As a national pastime to make the rifle what the bow was in the days of the Plantagenets, the familiar weapon of those who stand forth in the defence of their country.” The first meeting of the N.R.A. was held at Wimbledon in 1860. The first shot was fired by Queen Victoria[5] from a Whitworth rifle on a machine rest, at 400 yds., and struck the bull’s-eye. The Whitworth muzzle-loading rifle won many of the important prizes at this and subsequent meetings prior to 1871. Its most important features, arrived at after exhaustive experiments, were a smaller bore of ·450 in., with a twist of rifling of one turn in 20 in., and an elongated mechanically fitting projectile. Long-range rifle construction is also largely indebted to Whitworth for the highly accurate and superior tools and processes introduced by him in this branch of manufacture.

In 1866 and after, Metford’s system of hardened expanding bullets and shallow rifling gradually superseded the mechanically fitting system of Whitworth, and the Whitworth rifle gradually lost its position. In 1861, the Henry grooving for a cylindrical bullet, a modification of the Whitworth, first appeared. In 1864, Rigby, with a five-grooved rifle and a mechanically fitting bullet, tied with the Whitworth rifle in the preliminary rifle trial of the N.R.A. at 1000 yds., and in a subsequent trial took the first place. By 1871 the Whitworth ride had given place to the Metford system with hardened cylindrical bullets, shallow rifling and increasing spiral. In 1867 the modern breech loading rifle with a metallic cartridge was first introduced. The Metford system of rifling greatly assisted its development. In this year Rigby also produced a new model long-range rifle designed on the lines followed by Metford. In 1869 the Henry barrel came to the front. In 1870 the Martini-Henry, the new service arm, won the duke of Cambridge’s prize, the extreme range in this competition being 800 yds. In 1871 the Snider breech-loader replaced the Enfield muzzle-loader, and the Martini-Henry replaced the Whitworth in the later stages—800, 900 and 1000 yds.—of the Queen’s prize. The Metford barrel was also used in breech-loaders, and the duke of Cambridge’s prize—for the first time fired at 1000 yds.—fell to it. During the twenty-three years from 1871 to 1894 the Metford military match rifle only four times failed to win this prize, while it took a preponderating share of other prizes. The years 1872 and 1873 marked a decided advance in the military breech loader, though for fine shooting the muzzle-loader still seemed hard to equal. In 1875 a team of American riflemen first visited Wimbledon with “army-pattern” breech-loading rifles, which were cleaned out after every shot, and met with considerable success. A feature of their shooting was the “back position,” then a novelty. In 1877 the superiority of the clean sable and cleansed breech-loader over the increased fouling of the muzzle loader was clearly demonstrated, though the muzzle-loader did not at once disappear. In 1878 the highest scores ever made with the muzzle-loader in Great Britain were recorded, greater care in cleaning the rifle after every shot being observed.

In 1883 the N.R.A. Council altered the conditions, wiping out after every shot was forbidden, but muzzle-loaders were not disqualified. The result was that the American type of rifle disappeared. The poor shooting of the Martini at 1000 yds. induced the Council to take the retrograde step of reducing the maximum range for the Queen’s prize to 900 yds. In 1890 the N.R.A. first met at the new ranges at Bisley. This year was noticeable for the excellent shooting made in the “any” rifle competitions by the Gibbs-Metford match rifle, particularly at 1000 yds. range. The accepted type was ·461 calibre; 7 grooves ·0045 in. in depth; 80 grains of special black gunpowder, and a bullet of 570 grains. In 1892 and 1893 the Lee-Metford ·303 rifle with cordite ammunition was first used by the army teams. In 1890 and later the Hon. T. F. Fremantle, Captain Gibbs and some others used Metford’s copper-coated bullets in the Gibbs-Metford rifle with success. In 1895 many match rifle shots followed their example. In 1895 and 1896 the ·303 was equalled, and in some instances beaten, by the smaller-calibre Mannlicher rifle. This was partly due to faulty Lee-Metford ammunition. The ·303 now proved its superiority to the ·450 Martini, especially at the longer ranges. The Bisley meeting of 1896 practically closed the series of contests with both the Martini and the military match rifles. The Volunteers were thenceforth armed with the ·303.

The results of the Bisley meetings since 1895 have proved that rifles of the ·303 class, the British ·303 rifle particularly, are not so good for match rifles pure and simple as the larger bores using black powder. The light bullets are more subject to deflection by the wind at long ranges than the heavier speed-retaining bullets of the larger bores. No nitro-powder used appears to have equalled the black powder in regularity of shooting. At the same time the object of the N.R.A. competitions is to encourage the use of the military service rifle in the first place, and in the case of the “any” rifle competitions to encourage the production of weapons of the highest efficiency for military purposes. Acting on these principles the rifles allowed by the N.R.A. regulations (1907) are classed as follows:—Class I.—Service rifle (S.R.): government pattern ·303 magazine rifles; sights strictly in accordance with service pattern.[6] Class II.—Match rifles (M.R.): any breech-loading rifle complying with the following conditions: maximum weight of barrel, 31/4 ℔; maximum calibre, ·325; stock sufficiently strong for service purposes, and without pad or shoe on the heel plate; minimum pull of trigger, 4 ℔; sights, of any description. Class III.—Military breech loading rifles (M.B.L.); any rifle, that is either (a) the regulation military rifle of any country; or (b) a breech-loading rifle complying with the following conditions: maximum weight, exclusive of bayonet, 83/4 ℔; maximum calibre, ·315; minimum pull of trigger, 4 ℔. Sights may be of any description except telescopic or magnifying, but must be fixed to the barrel and must be strong enough for military purposes. Class IV.—Sporting rilies: calibre, any; minimum pull of trigger, 3 ℔; sights, open or such as are sanctioned by the council or committee. The Lyman back-sight and the Beech combination fore-sight have been sanctioned. No lateral adjustment of fore- or back-sight is permitted. The miniature rifles allowed fall into two classes, “military,” with open sights, only, and “any,” with no restrictions as to sights except that magnifying and telescopic sights are forbidden.

Modern American Target Rifles.—In America, according to some authorities, there are three recognized departments of target shooting-namely off-hand shooting; shooting from a simple rest; and shooting from a machine rest, with telescopic or any other sight. For the first two classes small-bore rifles of ·380 calibre or under only are used. The usual weight is from 8 to 10 ℔, with 28- or 30-in. barrel. Light charges for the shorter ranges are used. In the ·380 bore only 55 grains of powder with a 3 30-grain bullet is employed. In the second-class contests, from a simple rest, the barrel is longer and the weight increased to just under 12 ℔. The bore is generally ·380. The usual range is 200 yds. The third-class shooting from a machine rest, generally with telescopic sights, is not much practised. Every kind of rilie is employed, usually of large bore and weighing from 20 to 60 ℔. The long-range breech-loading match rifle, with which so much fine shooting was done when wiping out after each shot was allowed, weighed about 10 ℔; the breech mechanism, any falling block, as the Sharp, Farquharson, Deeley, and Edge or Wiley, that admitted the insertion of the cleaning rod at the breech; length of barrel, 32 to 34 in.; seven or more grooves ·003 to ·005 in depth with a complete turn in 20 in. A sharp continual spiral and very shallow grooves constituted the feature of the American plan. Rigby's plan was similar, with one turn in 18 in. and eight grooves, the lands being about half the width of the grooves. In the Wiley the grooves were fewer and wider. The Metford is an increasing twist, starting with one turn in 60 in. and finishing with one in 20, or sharper. The usual bore of the American long range rifle was ·458 or ·461; powder, 76 grains of special “fouling” rifle powder; elongated cylindrical bullet of 540 grains. The pull-off was under 3 ℔. During recent years smaller-bore smokeless-powder rifles have also been used.

Continental Match Rifles.—The target rifle used by continental marksmen for medium ranges is a modification of the old pattern Swiss rifle, with scroll guard, hollowed butt plate and hair trigger. This latter, a mechanical device to free the tumbler from the sear without sufficient pull on the trigger to influence the aim, is disallowed in military arms.

Sporting Rifles.—Prior to 1845 smooth-bore guns with double charge of powder and an ounce spherical ball were generally preferred to rifles for sporting purposes and for large game; 16-bore muzzle-loading, rifles were occasionally used by British sportsmen in the East Indies before that date, firing 11/2 drs. of powder with a spherical ounce ball. These rifles were sighted to 200 yds., but the trajectory was high and the penetration weak; they were also difficult to load when foul. The twist of the rifling was also too rapid, causing the bullet to strip with heavy charges of powder. According to Captain Forsyth and others, up to 1860 there was no known rifle suitable for sporting purposes in India. Rifles of 12-bore gauge, firing a spherical ball, were subsequently made, with broad and shallow grooves making one turn in 10 ft. The bullet, of the same diameter as the bore, was loaded with a thin patch that took the grooving. These rifles proved very successful, possessing velocity equal to a smooth-bore of the same calibre, accuracy for sporting distances, flat trajectory and great striking power. In 1855 W. Greener produced the “Cape rifle” for South African sport, calibre ·450 or ·500; rifling, two deep grooves with one turn in 26 in., with a lianged bullet to tit the grooves; weight, 12 ℔; sighted up to 1200 yds. This rifle was successful, and others were built by Purdey, who in 18 56 named the pattern “Express Train.” Since that date the word “express” has been generally used to denote a rifle possessing high velocity, flat trajectory and long fixed-sight range.[7] In America small-bore rifles were used earlier in the rgth century. The celebrated Kentucky rifles were of various sizes, firing spherical balls of 90, 60 and 40 to the ℔, and were renowned for their accuracy and fixed-sight range up to 100 yds. Some maintain that the express rifle was developed from the Kentucky model. The modern express rifle may be defined as a breech-loading rifle with a height of trajectory not exceeding 41/2 in. at 150 yds., with a muzzle velocity of at least 1750 f.s. These rifles are usually 5- to 7-grooved, double-barrelled, with 26- to 28-in. barrels of ·360, ·400, ·450, ·500 and ·577 bores, weighing respectively from 61/2 to 7 ℔, 7 to 8 ℔, 73/4 to 9 ℔, 81/4 to 10 ℔ and 101/4 to 12 ℔. The respective average charges are: bullet, 150 grains; powder, 50 grains; 209 and 82; 270 and 110; 340 and 130; 520 and 160; the fixed-sight ranges, 130, 160, 150, 130 and 120 yds. Double and single express rifles of ·303 bore with 26-in. barrels are also made.

Since the invention of cordite powder and the advent of the small-bore high-velocity rifle for military purposes, the variety of sporting rifles with different-sized bores has increased. Sporting cordite express rifles are now made, both single- and double-barrelled, of the following calibres: ·256, ·265, ·276, ·303, ·510, ·360. ·370, ·375, ·400, ·450, ·500, ·577 and ·600. Some of these calibres, such as ·500, ·577 and ·600, are seldom used with cordite. The ·450 cordite express is the largest bore high velocity rifle recommended.

The modern small-bore military rifle already described possesses all the best qualities of an express sporting rifle—namely accu-racy, flat trajectory, high muzzle velocity and long point-blank or fixed-sight range up to 200 yds. The muzzle velocity of the ·303 bore with black powder is 1850 f.s.; with cordite, 2100 f.s. The hollow-pointed or slit expanding bullet is generally used in these high-velocity rifles, as in the black powder express, for ordinary sporting purposes, with the solid metal cartridge-case. The pointed bullet is also sometimes used, generally with the ·375 and ·475 calibre rilies, and gives an increased muzzle velocity of 2500 f.s. The trajectory of the cordite rifle is stated to be 10 in. flatter at 200 yds. than that of a black-powder rifle of similar calibre and corresponding charge. The variety of bores in sporting rifles is due largely to restrictions on the importation of arms of the military calibres (especially ·303) into India and South Africa.

The sights of sporting express rifles are of some variety, and are usually designed and made with special care. The open V back-sight on an ivory pyramid with two or three leaves up to 300 yds., and the enamelled-bead fore-sight, are the most usual form. The more elaborate Lyman and Beech peep-sights are also popular. One or two varieties of telescope sight, attachable to the barrel, are also made by some leading gun makers, and have been used with success in the field. Solid-drawn brass cartridge-cases are now always used for sporting rifles, except occasionally for some of the larger bores, in which paper cartridges may be used. The peculiarity of the express bullet is its hollow point, which is intended to ensure the expansion of the projectile on impact. This diminishes its penetration, but translates its velocity or energy into “shock.” If greater penetration is needed, the leaden bullet is hardened with mercury or tin, or the military nickel-coated bullet is used. Explosive bullets filled with detonating powder were at one time used in express and large-bore rifles for large game. These are now practically abandoned, owing to their uncertainty of action and the danger in handling them. The use of the large 4- and 8-bore black-powder rifles is restricted to the hunting of large and dangerous game. These are usually double-barrelled. The 4-bore weighs from 14 to 18 ℔ with 20-in. barrels, and fires a charge of 12 to 14 drs. of powder, with a spherical bullet of 1510 grs. The great weight of this rifle is against its general use. The 8-bore rifle weighs from 111/2 to 15 ℔ with 20- to 24-in. barrels, with a charge of 8 to 12 drs. of powder with a spherical ball. These rifles are accurate and effective up to 120 yds. Rook and rabbit rifles are usually single-barrel breech-loading rifles of from ·220 to ·380 bore, hammerless, ejectors. The range is ordinarily restricted to 200 yds.

Combined rifles and shot-guns are generally used in countries where the kind of game to be met with is not known beforehand, and by emigrants who can only afford one gun. These weapons are double-barrelled (·450, rifle barrel and 16-bore short barrel; or ·500 rifle and 12-bore shot). Such a gun has many drawbacks, being too heavy for a shot-gun and too light for a rifle, with a bad balance. More modern combinations of the rifle and shot-gun are Holland’s “Paradox,” a smooth bore with the last three inches of the barrel ratchet-rifled, Lancaster's “Colindian” twisted oval bore, and Bland’s “Euoplia” with “invisible” undulating rifling. All these weapons fire heavy bullets more or less accurately up to 100 yds., are also used as shot-guns, and are made double- single-barrelled and of various calibres, 12-bore being the most common. There is also Greener’s “under, and over,” the rifle barrel being topmost (usually 16-bore shot-gun barrel and ·450 rifle barrel). The Morris tube also enables a shot-gun to be utilized as a small-bore rifle or a large rifle as a saloon rifle for gallery practice. The automatic principle has not yet been applied to sporting rifles.

Miniature Rifles.—In 1905 a War Office miniature or cadet rifle for instruction purposes was officially adopted by the British military authorities. The details of this rifle were determined by a committee, upon which the National Rifle Association and the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs were represented. It is a single-loading bolt-action ride of ·22 calibre with military sights (the aperture sight being barred), shooting a rim-fire cartridge having a 40 gr. bullet propelled by 5 grs. of black gunpowder or its equivalent in some smokeless explosive. It is used at ranges from 25 yds. up to a maximum of 200 yds. The official adoption of such a rifle was largely due to the civilian rifle club movement, which was the outcome of the South African War, and in which the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs has played an important part. Until the recent official adoption of the miniature rifle, the council of the N.R.A. regarded marksmanship with the service rifle as its main object of encouragement, and the service rifle itself as the orthodox weapon. The Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs, on the other hand, makes the encouragement of the use of low-power rifles its special object, with few restrictions as to type of sights, rifle or ammunition. Numerous civilian rifle clubs have adopted the ·22 calibre rifle, in many cases with aperture sights, with marked success, and British rifle-makers were encouraged to cater for this new demand for low-power rifles, Such weapons can be far more widely and generally used than the ordinary service weapon, owing to their smaller cost, cheaper ammunition, absence of recoil, and their convenience for use at short covered ranges in crowded centres of population. In many parts of Great Britain there is practically no alternative between low-power short-range practice and no shooting at all. The N.R.A. has now admitted the miniature ·22 calibre ride upon equal terms with the service rifle. The miniature rifle has, to some extent, taken the place of the Morris tube and “adaptors” previously used for rifle practice at short ranges.[8] The Morris tube consists of a small-rifled barrel, usually chambered for the 297/230-bore cartridge, and capable of being fitted inside the barrel of the ordinary service weapon, which thus becomes available as a miniature rifle for short-range practice. The Morris tube has been adopted by the British War Office, and affords an excellent means of training the recruit. “Adaptors” are dummy cartridge-cases fitted into the breech of the ordinary rifle, by means of which a shorter cartridge firing a lighter charge of powder, but with a bullet of the same calibre as the rifle, can be used for short-range practice. One of the first English miniature target rifles was the “Sharpshooters' Club” rifle, on the Martini principle, of ·310 calibre, manufactured and introduced by W. W. Greener, and suitable for ranges from 50 to 300 yds. This rifle was adopted by many rifle clubs, and in 1901 established a record in the miniature rifle competition at Bisley. Miniature rifle shooting has been much encouraged throughout the United Kingdom by the establishment of the Light Rifle Championship competition under the auspices of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs. In 1907 Queen Alexandra presented a cup for this event.  (H. S-K.) 

  1. The percussion principle, invented by the Rev. Alexander John Forsyth (1768–1843) in 1805, was not accepted for military arms until the introduction of this rifle. A small and belated money grant was made to Forsyth in 1843. See Major-General A. J. F. Reid’s memoir of Forsyth (1910).
  2. Of all modern military rifles, the Italian 1891 weapon alone has an increasing twist.
  3. The annexed figures show the old pattern weapon. In both the existing patterns a safety catch is fitted, the magazine spring is of a different shape and there is no bolt-cover. But the essential parts of the action remain the same.
  4. The Springfield was, however, a much improved model of this kind of weapon, dating from 1884 only.
  5. The “Queen’s” or “King’s” prize is the highest distinction to which a rifle shot can attain. The competition is one of three stages, the first and second eliminating all but the best 100 competitors. The bronze medal of the N.R.A. is awarded to the highest scorer in the first stage, the silver medal to the leader in the second, and the King’s prize and N.R.A. gold medal to the winner in the last stage: 71 shots in all are fired at distances up to 1000 yds., and the winners’ scores of late years have been 320 to 325 out of a possible 355. Only the service rifle is allowed.
  6. The N.R.A. have recently sanctioned the use of the aperture sight in service rifles, provided it be attached to the weapon by the hinge-pin which fastens the ordinary folding leaf.
  7. The term “point-blank range” is often used in this connexion. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as “point-blank range,” the bullet commencing to drop immediately it leaves the muzzle of the rifle. The path or trajectory of the bullet if fired horizontally is therefore always a downward curve. The higher the muzzle velocity the flatter is this curve. The “fixed-sight,” or so-called “point-blank” range, is usually taken at such range, generally 100 yds. with black powder, and with such elevation as render the amount of drop of the bullet or curve of its path practically immaterial for sporting purposes, say a maximum of 41/2 in. At shorter range this curve would therefore take the bullet so much above the line of fixed-sight aim, and must where necessary be allowed for. With the high-velocity small-bore rifle the fixed-sight range can be increased to 200 yds. for the sporting rifle; and for military purposes in the field to 500 yds. and (with pointed bullets) even more.
  8. In the military forces short-range practice now takes two forms—practice with Morris tube or miniature rifle, and practice with the full-sized rifle and ammunition on specially protected 30-yd. ranges.