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rifle:see small armssmall arms,
firearms designed primarily to be carried and fired by one person and, generally, held in the hands, as distinguished from heavy arms, or artillery. Early Small Arms
The first small arms came into general use at the end of the 14th cent.
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a shotgun with spiral grooves in the bore, which give the bullet a spinning motion, providing steady flight, great distance, and greater accuracy of fire. A rifle is an individual weapon for the destruction of the enemy at a distance of up to 2,000 m. The first models of a weapon with spiral rifling in the bore appeared in the early 16th century. However, the difficulty of loading rifled shotguns from the muzzle led to an insufficiently high rate of fire (they were five to seven times inferior to the smoothbore), which prevented their wide introduction into the army. Therefore, in the 17th and 18th century rifled shotguns were used only as so-called fortress shotguns and for arming select riflemen and noncommissioned officers. Only in the 19th century did the rate of fire of the rifle greatly increase, with the invention of the explosive and fuse of the percussion shell, the percussion cap, and later the fixed metal round (metal cartridge case, percussion cap, gunpowder charge, and bullet) and with the improvement of the method of loading—that is, from the breech. The rifle was adopted in the middle of the 19th century as armament in all major armies.
The Russians invented the metal cartridge case. As early as the 1760’s the Russian gunsmith Ivan Lialin made a shotgun into the breech end of the barrel of which he inserted a metal chamber equipped with powder and bullets. (The shotgun is preserved in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.) In 1868, a 4.2 line rifle (1 line = 0.1 inch) with a sliding lever breechblock and a cartridge with a metal cartridge case was adopted as armament by Russia. The Russian engineers A. P. Gorlov and Captain K. I. Gunnius worked on this rifle, but it was incorrectly given the name Berdan No. 1, though even in America this rifle was called the Russian rifle. In 1870 the Russian Army adopted as armament a more rapid-firing single-shot 4.2 line rifle, the Berdan No. 2 with a sliding bolt.
Further improvement of the rifle is related to the appearance of a magazine with smokeless powder and encased bul-lets (instead of bullets of solid lead), which greatly increased the rate of fire. In 1891 in Russia the repeating 3 line rifle of S. I. Mosin, which was guaranteed to provide 60 years of service, was adopted as armament by Russia. In this period the rifle underwent some superficial changes (1910, 1930, and 1933). In 1930 it received the name 7.62-mm rifle of the 1891-1930 model. Its combat rate of fire was ten to 12 shots a minute; its maximum sighting range was 2,000 m. The best results of firing were obtained up to 400 m.; its weight with a bayonet was 4.5 kg and without the bayonet, 4 kg. For excel-lent riflemen in the infantry a telescopic sight was attached to the rifle, increasing its sighting range to 800 m. This type of rifle is called a sniper. With the appearance of automatic weapons in the beginning of the 20th century, the automatic rifle was devised with a practical rate of shot for shot fire equal to 25-30 shots a minute.
After World War II the rifle was replaced in most armies by the submachine gun (automatic) and the automatic (self-loading) carbine, which was a variety of it. Shotguns of the carbine type were first manufactured in Austria at the end of the 15th century as cavalry armament. In 1907 a carbine like the 1891-model rifle was introduced for machine-gun teams and for artillery reconnaissance scouts. In the Soviet Army, armaments include carbines of the 1938 and 1944 models created according to the rifle of the 1891-1930 model. For training and for sport there are sporting rifles, which usually have a caliber of 5.6 mm. They are single-shot, magazine, and automatic (self-loading) rifles.
REFERENCESFedorov, V. G. Istoriia vintovki. Moscow, 1940.
Fedorov, V. G. Nastavlennie po strelkovomu delu: Vintovka obraztsa 189111930 i karabiny obraztsa 1938 i 1944. Moscow, 1955.
P. I. SIROTKIN