Guns, Sporting

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Guns, Sporting


rifles and shotguns used to hunt animals and birds. Military guns were used for hunting until the 17th century, when special single-barreled sporting guns, which were lighter than their military counterparts, came into use; models with two barrels appeared in 1738. Until the 19th century, such arms were loaded through the muzzle of the barrel using a ramrod and were called muzzle-loaders. Initially, the powder charge was ignited by a matchlock; flintlocks and, finally, percussion locks were subsequently used. The best guns were manufactured in Spain and Sweden. Common models had one, two, or, more rarely, three barrels and external hammers; a small number of hammerless (with internal hammers) guns were also produced.

In the 1830’s, the French gunsmith Lefaucheux (1833) and the German gunsmith Dreyse (1836) produced the first models to be loaded from the breech (the end of the barrel closest to the grip) using an integrated cartridge. The best breech-loading guns, with one or two smoothbore or rifled barrels, were produced in France, Belgium, Great Britain, and Germany. There were also master gunsmiths in Russia. These sporting guns spread widely as they were perfected and by the beginning of the 20th century had supplanted muzzle-loaders.

Figure 1. Principal parts of a sporting gun: (1) front sight, (2) barrels, (3) swivel, (4) rib, (5) fore-end grip, (6) receiver, (7) lever for the barrel lock, (8) grip, (9) stock, (10) trigger guard, (11) triggers, (12) cheek of the stock, (13) safety

Modern sporting guns are divided into smoothbore, rifled, and combination types (shotgun and rifle together). Sporting guns are subdivided according to purpose into guns for amateur hunting, commercial hunting, and target shooting. On most guns, the barrels break downward, which makes it possible to load them from the breech, where the chamber is located. The principal parts of the gun are the barrels, receiver with the trigger-hammer and locking mechanisms, stock, and fore-end grip (see Figure 1).

The barrels are made of special high-grade steel and are classified according to length (65 to 85 cm), rifling, choke, and caliber. Large-caliber guns generally have the longest barrels. Guns with two barrels can have the barrels situated next to one another on a horizontal (double-barreled) or vertical (over-and-under) plane (see Figure 2). Smoothbore (shotgun) barrels have a chamber with a transitional cone to the bore, the bore, and a muzzle constriction called the choke, which improves the grouping of the shot pattern. Bores without chokes are called straight cylinder bores. Depending on the amount of bore constriction, the following chokes are distinguished: improved cylinder (constriction equal to 0.15 mm), one-quarter choke (0.25 mm), modified choke (0.5 mm), full choke (1.0 mm), and skeet choke (1.25 mm). Broad, spiral rifling is sometimes applied to bore constrictions to improve the accuracy of solid slugs fired from guns with smooth bores. The calibers (bore diameters) of rifled guns are given in millimeters or inches, and shotguns are conventionally designated by gauge numbers (12, 16, 20, and so on) as well as in millimeters. The maximum sizes of shotgun chambers and bores have been established according to an agreement among a number of European countries (see Table 1).

The receiver provides the foundation for connecting the barrels to the stock, and it houses the locking, trigger-hammer, and safety mechanisms. Most guns with hinged (breaking) barrels have an articulated receiver, and single-barreled guns with fixed barrels and certain other types have a housing that performs the same functions. The connection of the barrel and the receiver is shown in Figure 2. In guns with external hammers, the hammer is cocked manually before firing; in the more common, hammerless designs, the hammer and cocking mechanism are located inside the receiver. Most sporting guns have automatic safety devices, which increase safety in handling the gun,

Table 1. Shotgun bore diameters
GaugeMinimum diameter (mm)Maximum diameter (mm)

and hammer bars, which prevent a shot from being fired when the trigger is not pressed but the hammer accidentally slips from the sear. Some models have signaling devices that show whether the gun is cocked.

The stock is designed to be supported against the shoulder when firing and provides convenience in handling the gun. Stocks are made of hard woods such as walnut, beech, and birch. The stock is usually separated from the fore-end grip by the receiver and consists of the butt, the grip, and the fore-end. There is a butt plate made of metal, plastic, or rubber on the face of the butt. There are straight, semipistol, and pistol grips. The receiver and all its mechanisms are recessed into the front part of the stock, called the fore-end, and secured there.

The fore-end grip provides the hinge connection between the barrel and the receiver in guns with breaking barrels and makes it convenient to hold the gun while shooting. On some guns with fixed barrels, primarily rifles, the fore-end grip is a continuation of the stock. In many models, an ejector mechanism, which automatically ejects the case of the used shell after firing when the gun is broken, is mounted in the fore-end grip.

In the USSR, various types of sporting guns are produced, primarily by the Tula and Izhevsk factories. The Central Design and Research Bureau for Sporting and Hunting Guns also produces a small number of models. In addition to lot-produced models, the factories also make individual guns with improved ballistics and operating characteristics, careful finishing of parts and adjustment of mechanisms, and more intricate decoration. The best-known foreign companies producing sporting guns are James Purdey, Holland and Holland, and Churchill (Great Britain), Dynamite-Nobel and Sauer (Federal Republic of Germany), Merkel, Simson, and Sauer (German Democratic Republic), Browning and Francotte (Belgium), Beretta and Franchi (Italy), and Remington, Winchester, and Savage (the USA).

Figure 2. Connection of barrels to receiver: (a) over-and-under, (b) double-barreled

Smoothbore sporting guns (shotguns), designed to fire bird shot, buckshot, and special lead slugs, make up the largest group; they are used for amateur and commercial hunting. In hunting birds and medium-sized and small animals, bird shot is usually used at distances of 35 to 50 m; large animals are taken with cartridges with lead slugs of the Jakan or Brenneke type. These guns may have one or two barrels, with external or internal hammers, and they may fire single or multiple shots. Single-barreled designs include automatic reloading types with fixed barrels, with reloading accomplished using the energy of the gases expelled from the bore, and types with a moving barrel, with reloading accomplished using the energy of the recoil that occurs when firing. Automatic reloading models have cylindrical magazines that hold two to four (less often, as many as seven) shells.

Up to the 1930’s, the following shotguns were produced in the USSR: single-barreled models using Frolov, Berdan, Hech single-shot and magazine systems (all designs were versions of military rifles) and the model IZhB-5 and two double-barreled shotguns—the model B (with external hammers) and the hammerless model IZhB-36. Automatic shotguns were produced in foreign countries by Browning (Belgium), Winchester and Remington (the USA), and Sjögren (Sweden). In the late 1940’s, the USSR began to produce the Kazanskii system models ZK and ZKB single-barreled shotguns and the model A and model MTs-6 hammerless over-and-under shotguns. Well-known single-barreled guns today include the IZh-17 (with external hammer) and IZh-18 and IZh-18E hammerless models in 12, 16, 20, 28, and 32 gauges and the MTs-21 automatic reloading model in 12, 16, and 20 gauges. Two-barreled shotguns inelude the TOZ-63 16-gauge and the TOZ-66 12-gauge models with external hammers and the hammerless models IZh-26, IZh-26E, and IZh-58M in 12 and 16 gauges, the TOZ-34 and TOZ-34E in 12 gauge, and the IZh-27 and IZh-27E in 12 and 16 gauges. Well-known individually manufactured two-barreled hammerless models include the MTs-10, MTs-110–12, MTs-111–12, MTs-5–20, MTs-6–12, and MTs-7–12.

Shotguns used for shooting at fast-moving clay pigeons at shooting ranges constitute a special group. Shotguns designed for trapshooting have barrels 75 to 82 cm long, special chokes that make it possible to hit targets at distances up to 50 m, broad, ventilated ribs on the barrels, heavy stocks and fore-end grips with special projections for the hand and cheek, and hammer-trigger mechanisms with single triggers and special safeties that prevent accidental shots. Shotguns designed for skeet are of the same design, except the barrels are 65 to 67.5 cm long and have special muzzle expansions, called bell chokes, that make it possible to hit targets at distances up to 25 m. Models MTs-11– 02, MTs-109, MTs-902, MTs-6, MTs-8, and IZh-25 are used for range shooting.

Rifles are designed for commercial and amateur hunting. They have barrel bores with rifling—grooves that run along the entire bore in a spiral. The number of grooves in the bore and the depth, width, and pitch of the grooves depend on the rifle’s purpose and the hardness of the metal from which the bullet is made. Sporting rifles usually have four to six grooves in the bore. There are various types of well-known rifles, including shtutser-type carbines and single-shot and magazine-loading rifles. The former include single- and two-barreled models, either hammerless or with external hammers, with top-break barrels in calibers from 5.2 to 15.2 mm. Single-shot and magazine-loading rifles have breach locks that slide longitudinally or vertically, may be reloaded by hand or automatically, and are available in calibers between 5.6 and 12.7 mm. Rifles with shortened (50–60 cm) barrels are called carbines. Rifles with telescopic sights allow a hunter to hit targets at distances up to 500 m. Well-known shtutser-type carbines are the MTs-7–09 and MTs-109–09, with vertically paired barrels, and the MTs-10–09, with horizontally paired barrels. Carbines include the five-shot Bars and Los’ models and the Medved’ carbine (four or five shots with automatic reloading).

Combination guns are used for commercial and amateur hunting. Models with one rifled and one shotgun barrel or with one rifled and two shotgun barrels are common. These guns have attachments for mounting telescopic sights that make it possible to fire a bullet at distances up to 300 m. Single- and two-barrel smoothbore models designed to fire both shot and slugs and having rifled chokes also belong to this category. Common combination models are the IZh-56–3 Belka with a 5.6-mm rifled top barrel and a 28-gauge rifled lower barrel for shot and the three-barreled MTs-30–09 with two 12-gauge top barrels and a 9-mm rifled lower barrel. In such guns, the top barrels may be situated side by side and designed to take rifled 9-mm shells, and the lower barrel may have a smooth bore designed to take 12-gauge shells.

Each factory puts its own factory and testing marks on the breech and barrel pads, the receiver, the barrel catches, and other metal parts. Soviet guns usually show the year of initial production, for example, 1925 po 1928 (1925 through 1928), s 1928 (from 1928), or just 1945, the factory mark, the year of manufacture and serial number, the caliber and chamber length—for example, “K 16 X 70” means 16 gauge and a chamber length of 70 mm—the diameter of the chamber and barrels (in millimeters), the type of choke, for example, chok (full choke), p-chok (modified choke), or tsil (straight cylinder), testing for firing smokeless powder (with the inscription nitro), and the type of casing for the shells, for example, bum (paper). If the gun has been tested for strength, this is indicated by the letter “u” inside a small circle or trapezium, and pattern testing is indicated by the letter “k” in a small circle. On foreign guns, the factory marks include an indication of the grade of steel and the company insignia.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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