Types of Rifles: ammunition and parts

There are a number of common types of rifles available today and they can be split into two, defined by what ammunition they fire.

Long before the rifle was issued to soldiers, the musket was the most effective way of knocking down the enemy.

By igniting gun powder a heavy lead ball was propelled down a large smooth bore tube with limited accuracy.  But, the lead ball could penetrate a wall as well as a suit of armour.

Although it fired less rapidly than a longbow, the attraction of the musket that any group of people could be trained to use it in a few weeks.

By cutting a series of twisting groves along the inside length of a barrel, a bullet was able to spin and this made the rifle (named after the “rifling” groves) far more accurate.

By the turn of the 19th century, rifles were issued to specially formed Rifle Regiments and soon replaced the musket amongst the infantry.  Initially, the rifle fired three rounds a minute and could be used in dry weather only.  Subsequently, the muscle loading flint off weapon evolved into a heavy bolt action rifle that could fire twenty rounds a minute up to 1000 metres.

Since the end of World War II the rifle has evolved into a lightweight automatic weapon capable of firing 30 rounds per seconds with an effective range of 300 metres.

The actions are the parts that load, fire and unload a rifle.

There are five basic actions involved:

Hinge action

opens and closes the rifle like the hinge on a door

Pump Action

where you pull and push your forearm to operate a pump action

Bolt Action

has a bolt handle on the side of the rifle which must be lifted, pulled to the rear, returned to the front and locked down before squeezing the trigger

Lever Action

has a large lever the swings out from the bottom of the gun

Semi Automatic Action

fires once and reloads with each pull and release of the trigger

There are a number of common types of rifles available today and they can be split into two, defined by what ammunition they fire.  A rifle, like any firearm, is built around the cartridge that fire.  The heavier the round, the heavier the weapon as it has to withstand the pressure and recoil.

Snipers always use large calibre weapons but they don’t use much ammunition and don’t have to carry their rifles very far.

The lighter the ammunition, the more you can carry.  Therefore, infantry carry rifles that use lighter ammunition and can be fired in volume at the enemy.  For a light weapon you need to select a bullet that travels very fast (i.e. 5.56mm x 45mm) or a heavy bullet that travels relatively slowly (i.e. 7.62mm x 39mm).  The first round is used in the American M16, HK G36 and the Dimarco.  The second round is used by Russia and China and is fired by the AK47.  The M16 round creates a massive shock wave at short range whereas the AK47 produces a smaller shock wave but a larger bullet hole.

Given the fact that you will come across a range of rifles in a Hostile Environment consider that the most important thing to remember about rifles is the marksmanship of the person holding it.

During our H.E.A.T. courses, we spend an entire afternoon at the Glencaim shooting range in Cape Town.  A qualified gun maker and a Firearm instructor will teach you how to fire a wide range of arms: shotguns, pistols, rifles (AK47) and machine guns.