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Note: the material presented on this page cannot be regarded as promotion of firearms. The aim of this article is just providing awareness of some rifle types and models with their basic characteristics for educational purposes. We warn our readers that rifles can cause potential danger to the people and must be kept only in specially equipped storage places admitting no access to unauthorized persons and children. All the actions connected with the purchase/sale and possession of rifles must be taken only in agreement with current firearms laws or penal legislation. Anyhow, we donít impel you to own guns to avoid possible troubles. If you however decide to purchase rifle, check your local gun laws before. This site has never been associated with any manufacturer of weapons or ammunition.

Modern Civilian And Military Rifles

   A rifle is a firearm that uses a spiral groove cut into the barrel to spin a bullet. Thus, in a moment when bullet moves through the barrel (bullet screws itself into the rifling), it gains running torque which stabilizes its further flight. This provides rifle with improved accuracy and range (in comparison with smooth-bore guns). Lightweight rifle with a short barrel is called 'carbine'. As compared to rifles, carbines, due to their reduced size and weight, are more suitable for close-combat situations (in particular - home defense), but have shorter effective range and accuracy. According to their construction, rifles can be classified in several types.
Lever-action rifle (e.g. Winchester 94, Marlin 336, Ruger 96) is a magazine-fed firearm which uses lever located around the trigger guard area (often including the trigger guard itself) to load cartridges from magazine (usually under-barrel tubular type) into the chamber of the barrel when the lever is "cranked". This scheme was adopted in the beginning of 1860s, and lever-action rifles remain popular among cowboys and hunters and up to the present. It is worthy of note that lever-action rifles are capable of considerably quicker reloading in comparison with bolt-action rifles; this factor can be crucial in a situation then the quick follow-up shot is important.
Bolt-action rifle (e.g. Mauser 98, Remington 700, Winchester 70, Ruger M77) is a magazine-fed firearm which requires manual operation to load cartridge from magazine into the chamber of the barrel and to close the breech by the move of the bolt. To fire each shot from bolt-action rifle, shooter must manually unlock the bolt (by its rotation, using the bolt handle), open it to eject spent cartridge case, close the bolt, simultaneously feeding a new cartridge into the chamber, and then lock the bolt.
Frankly speaking, the class of bolt-action rifles includes not only multi-shot magazine-fed rifles, but also single-shot models (the first breech-loaders designed in the 1st half of the XIX century belong to the class of single-shot bolt-action rifles). Bolt-action single-shot rifles require that each round must be loaded independently. Bolt-action rifles had a wide military application up to World War II period, and then were mostly replaced by self-loading rifles (though bolt-actions still have some military application today as high-precision sniper rifles), nevertheless they are widely used for hunting and sport shooting at present.
Self-loading rifle ("autoloader") is a semi-automatic (e.g. SKS rifle, Browning BAR, Remington 7400, Dragunov sniper rifle) or automatic firearm that automatically ejects a shell and chambers the next round from magazine; semi-automatic firearm automatically reloads the chamber after each round is fired, but requires that the trigger be pulled again before firing the next round; fully-automatic firearm capable of continuous fire - it goes on shooting for as long as the trigger is held (and until the magazine is not empty). Assault rifle (e.g. Kalashnikov AK-47/AK-74, Armalite AR-15 (M16), Steyr AUG, Heckler&Koch G36) is a combat automatic self-loading rifle (or carbine) which is capable of firing both in fully-automatic and semi-automatic modes (some assault rifle models have additional option of firing series of predetermined number of rounds (usually 2 or 3) at each pull of the trigger) and designed for the use of intermediate-power ammunition (e.g. 5.56x45 NATO ammunition or 7.62x39 mm and 5.45x39 mm Soviet-type ammunition).

   Now we're going to examine briefly several rifle models of various types. Featuring: Winchester 94 lever-action rifle, Mauser 98 bolt-action rifle, Remington 700 bolt-action rifle, SKS self-loading rifle, AK-47 & AK-74 Kalashnikov assault rifles, AR-15 (M16) assault rifle, Dragunov sniper rifle, Ruger Mini-14 self-loading rifle.

Winchester 94 lever-action rifle, USA

Winchester 94 rifle lever-action
Winchester 94

 Winchester 94 Ranger model: Caliber - 30-30 Win., Barrel length - 20" (510 mm), Overall length - 38.125" (970 mm), Magazine capacity - 6, Weight - 6.25 lbs (2.83 kg).
Winchester 94 Timber model: Caliber - 450 Marlin, Barrel length - 18" (457 mm), Overall length - 36.25" (920 mm), Magazine capacity - 4, Weight - 6 lbs (2.7 kg).

   Winchester 94 is considered as one of the best selling civilian rifle models of all time. Winchester 94 rifles have a long history - they are produced since 1894 and widely used for recreational shooting and hunting up to now. Winchester 94 features classic lever-action design, perfect reliability, excellent balance, quick reloading ability, easiness and convenience of use. Winchester 94 line includes several models (Legacy and Trails End series, Ranger and Timber models), which differ in caliber, barrel length, magazine capacity, finishing. Compact and lightweight Timber and Ranger models are very maneurable and perfectly fit for dynamic hunting conditions and home defense situations. Winchester 94 Legacy series' rifles are produced with extended barrel length (26") and insure high shooting accuracy at long ranges.

Mauser 98 bolt-action rifle, Germany

Mauser 98 rifle bolt-action
Mauser 98

 Caliber - 7.92x57, Barrel length - 29.3" (745 mm), Overal length - 49.2" (1250 mm), Magazine capacity - 5; Weight - 9 lbs (4.1 kg).

   Mauser 98 is a classic military bolt-action rifle which was introduced in 1898 and then adopted in German army as a primary infantry weapon (the shortened version of Mauser 98 rifle - Mauser k98 carbine, had also wide military application). It is extremely durable firearm with perfect ballistics, but redundant weight is its main drawback. German manufacturers produced Mauser 98 rifles until the end of World War II, nevertheless other countries still manufacture Mausers under the license (and with some modifications) up to now. Mauser 98 rifles have one-piece solid wooden stock with semi-pistol grip. Mauser 98 model features perfect and very reliable bolt scheme, which ensures the excellent extraction of spent cartridge cases; loading process is very simple and quick. Original rear sector sights were difficult for manufacturing and expensive; they were graduated up to 2000 m range.

Remington 700 bolt-action rifle, USA

Remington 700 rifle bolt-action
Remington 700

 Remington 700 Classic model: Caliber - 308 Win. (7.62x51mm), Barrel length - 24" (610 mm), Overall length - 43.625" (1110 mm), Magazine capacity - 4, Weight - 7.25 lbs (3.3 kg).

   The concept of Remington 700 rifle is based on classic Mauser bolt-action scheme and combines great ballistic performance, excellent reliability and perfect design. Remington 700 remains one of the most popular bolt-actions among hunters and sport target shooters for many decades. Remington 700 line involves more than dozen of various models differ in caliber, barrel length, stock material and finishing. Calibers available (caliber depends on specific model) - 17 Rem., 204 Ruger, 221 Rem., 223 Rem., 22-250 Rem., 243 Win., 25-06 Rem., 270 Win., 7 mm Rem. Mag., 7mm Rem. Ultra Mag., 30-06 Sprg, 300 Win. Mag, 300 Rem. Ultra Mag., 308 Win.
The years of Vietnamese war showed that U.S. armed forces needed high-precision sniper rifle with considerable accuracy at ranges beyond 500 m, and Remington 700 was taken as a prototype for this sniper rifle, which was adopted later as M40 -> M40A1 model. M40A1 sniper rifle adheres to Remington 700 scheme, but has several modifications - heavy stainless steel barrel, composite stock.

SKS rifle (Simonov self-loading carbine), USSR/Russia

SKS rifle (Simonov self-loading carbine)
SKS military rifle
SKS rifle - civilian modification
SKS rifle - civilian modification

  Caliber - 7.62x39 mm, Barrel length - 20.5" (520 mm), Overall length - 40.2" (1021 mm), Magazine capacity - 10, Weight - 8.4 lbs (3.8 kg).

   In the year 1943, Soviet constructors introduced the new type of 7.62 mm ammunition - intermediate-power 7.62x39 cartridge, designed as a medium-range (for the average shooting ranges about 500 m) reduced-recoil ammunition. The first serially produced firearm that utilized this type of ammo was SKS rifle (Simonov self-loading carbine), model 1945. SKS is a magazine fed, gas operated, semi-automatic rifle. Magazine is non-detachable; to load the rifle, you have to open the breechblock and insert a clip with cartridges into the magazine. After the final shot, when all the cartridges are spent, breech-lock becomes opened - the rifle is ready for reloading.
Due to its great reliability, operation simplicity, good ballistic performance and low cost, SKS rifle became popular in many countries, both inside and outside borders of former Eastern block, and passed real battle tests in the end of World War II and various later local armed conflicts. SKS rifle is also widely distributed on civilian market - it is widespread among hunters. There's actually no noticeable difference between military SKS model and its civilian version: the main distinction is that civilian SKS doesn't provide its owner with the use of bayonet. SKS rifle is very versatile and cheap firearm; if you're looking for a reliable survival weapon, SKS rifle is a good choice.

AK-47, AK-74 Kalashnikov assault rifles, USSR/Russia

AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle
AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle
AK-74 Kalashnikov assault rifle
AK-74 Kalashnikov assault rifle

 AK-47: Caliber- 7.62x39 mm, Barrel length - 16.3" (415 mm), Overall length - 34.25" (870 mm) Magazine capacity - 30, Weight - 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg).
AK-74: Caliber - 5.45x39 mm, Barrel length - 15.75" (400 mm), Overall length - 37" (940 mm), Magazine capacity - 30, Weight - 8 lbs (3.6 kg).

   During the World War II military battlefield planners realized the need for a new type of firearms designed for medium-range shooting with the object to replace insufficiently powerful submachine guns. Several requirements were taken into consideration - the use of intermediate-power ammunition providing reduced recoil, higher killing range in comparison with submachine guns, good ballistic performance, high fire rate in full-auto mode and the availability of semi-auto mode, good maneuverability. The introduction of Kalashnikov assault rifle (designed by Michael Kalashnikov) in 1946 (this firearm after certain modifications was labeled as AK-47 assault rifle, model 1947) was the great success of numerous military researches carried out in 1940s. As the SKS rifle, AK-47 utilizes intermediate-power 7.62x39 mm ammunition and has fixed wooden stock. Kalashnikov assault rifle is gas operated firearm - its mechanics is based on the use of powder combustion gases. Two firing modes are available - semi-auto and full-auto; the fire selector also functions as a safety selector.
There's no doubt that nowadays Kalashnikov assault rifle is the most esteemed, the most recognizable firearm in the world. What are the key elements of AK success? Ė outstanding reliability proved in numerous armed conflicts (AKs are capable of working in extremely severe conditions), simplicity of operation and maintenance, low manufacturing cost, versatility of construction. But it's not easy to find original AK-47 today. Since 1959 modernized version of AK-47 (AKM) had been put into mass production instead of AK-47 with the object of reducing firearm manufacturing cost. In contrast to AK-47 rifles that had been assembled mostly of relatively expensive milled parts, AKMs had been produced primarily of cheaper press formed parts. In the beginning of 1970s the new type of ammunition - 5.45x39 mm cartridge was designed to increase effective range of Kalashnikov assault rifle, reduce firearm's recoil, and obtain flatter bullet trajectory in comparison with 7.62 x 39 mm ammo. Small-caliber high-velocity bullets (5.45x39 mm cartridge gives muzzle velocity of 900 m/s) have increased tendency to tumble in human body producing severe wounds.
It didn't require great effort to modify AK for the new ammunition. Next generation of Kalashnikov assault rifle, AK-74 (model 1974) is basically an AKM re-chambered and re-bored to fire a 5.45x39 mm cartridge. There're no evident difference in construction between AK-74 and AKM; the most notable feature of AK-74 is the massive muzzle brake that nullifies firearm's recoil and drastically decreases its muzzle climb in full-auto mode.
Note: Full-auto AK rifles are generally prohibited for civilians (or require special licenses) - semi-auto AK versions (e.g. Saiga rifle) are usually available on civilian market.

AR-15/M16 assault rifle, USA

M16 assault rifle
M16 assault rifle

 Caliber - 5.56x45 mm, Barrel length - 20" (508 mm), Overall length - 39" (990 mm), Magazine capacity - 20(30), Weight - 7 lbs (3.2 kg).

   AR-15/M16 - one of the first small-caliber assault rifle models in the world. AR-15, developed in the end of 1950s, is a product of a Eugene Stoner, chief engineer of Armalite Corporation. AR-15 is a gas-operated full-automatic/semi-automatic firearm built upon direct gas scheme - as distinct from AK, this system doesn't use conventional gas piston and rod to move bolt assembly back after the shot is fired. The hot powder combustion gases are fed from the barrel and down to the stainless steel tube into the receiver, then enter the hollow cavity inside the bolt carrier, and expand there, acting against the bolt carrier and the collar around the bolt body. The pressure of the gases causes the bolt carrier to move back against bolt, causing the latter to rotate and open. Construction of AR-15 rifle involves considerable amount of plastic (composite) and aluminum parts that was unusual for the end of 1950s. By introduction of such lightweight components, AR-15 constructors succeeded to reduce the weight of the firearm drastically. In 1959 Armalite Corporation sold its rights to the AR-15 rifle to Colt, and then, after certain modifications, this rifle was adopted as M16 model, primary infantry rifle of the U.S. army.
Note: some muddle might occur with the names 'AR-15' and 'M16' at present. M16 (M16A1, M16A2, M16A3, M16A4) is a selective fire (full-auto/semi-auto) military assault rifle, but name AR-15 is applicable nowadays for semi-automatic M16-based rifles that are available on civilian market (though, as mentioned above, originally the name 'AR-15' referred to selective fire weapon, not only semi-automatic).
M16 is fed with the use of box magazines. The capacity of earliest M16 magazines was limited to 20 rounds, but since the beginning of 1970s 30-round magazines were introduced into service. Only few years had passed after the introduction of M16 (M16A1), when the rifle came in a wide-scale war service in Vietnam. The first years of permanent battle testing didn't show satisfactory results - jams not rarely occurred to M16, but in fact most of M16 malfunctions referred to wrong ammunition (type of powder used in cartridges) and improper maintenance; such troubles were overcome later on. Despite the fact that M16 rifle require more care (maintenance) as compared to AK, it is quite reliable and accurate firearm which is considered as one of the best assault rifle models in the world.

Dragunov sniper rifle (SVD), USSR/Russia

Dragunov sniper rifle (SVD)
Dragunov sniper rifle (SVD)

 Caliber - 7.62x54 mm, Barrel length - 24.5" (622 mm), Overall length - 48.2" (1225 mm), Magazine capacity - 10, Weight - 9,5 lbs (4.3 kg).

   Dragunov sniper rifle (model 1963) - semi-automatic gas-operated firearm designed for precise shooting at distances up to 800 m. Actual killing range of the weapon is 3800 m. Mechanics of Dragunov sniper rifle is based on a simplified scheme of Kalashnikov assault rifle (as a sniper rifle, it doesn't need the presence of full-auto mode as in a case of AK). Along with mechanic scheme, Dragunov sniper rifle inherited easily recognizable AK exterior and perfect reliability. Contrary to the overwhelming majority of other sniper rifle models, SVD in standard supply is usually equipped with knife bayonet, but this option actually remains disused. Dragunov sniper rifle is well balanced weapon with high firing rate (up to 30 rounds per minute) - it undoubtedly surpasses conventional bolt-action sniper rifles with respect to this characteristic.
Tiger - civilian SVD-based rifle that retains both mechanic scheme and military look of Dragunov sniper rifle. What's the difference between civilian Tiger rifle and its military ancestor (SVD)? - Tigers are equipped with shorter barrels, have no bayonet mount, have no flash eliminator, and have different shape of stock. Tiger-9 is a civilian modification of Dragunov sniper rifle, re-bored and chambered to fire very powerful 9.3x64 mm cartridges.

Tiger - civilian rifle on the base of Dragunov sniper rifle
Tiger - civilian rifle on the base of Dragunov sniper rifle

Ruger Mini-14 self-loading rifle, USA

Ruger Mini-14 self-loading rifle
Ruger Mini-14

 Caliber - .223 Remington, Barrel length - 18.5" (470 mm), Overal length - 37.25" (946 mm), Magazine capacity - 5;
Weight - 6.875 lbs (3.11 kg).

   The Ruger Mini-14 civilian rifle is a gas operated, box magazine fed, self-loading semi-automatic rifle (military versions of Ruger Mini-14 are capable of firing in full-auto mode and provided with magazines of extended capacity). It is simple, reliable rifle, and consists of a relatively few rugged components. The mechanism employs the Ruger fixed piston/moving cylinder gas system in conjunction with a simplified Garand-type rotating bolt. As a matter of fact, Ruger Mini-14 is a clone of famous M14 military rifle, designed for the use of .223 Rem ammunition. Ruger Mini-14 model is based on time-proven Garand mechanic scheme that was first realized in M1 auto-loading rifle. The Mini-14 rifle can be field stripped for cleaning to its basic subassemblies in seconds without the use of tools.
Ruger Mini-14 rifles have never been used in army service, but can be found in police arsenals.

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