All rifled arms fire a single projectile, or bullet; while the purpose of the rifling, as is generally known, is to give the bullet a spin about its longitudinal axis during its passage along the bore. On leaving the muzzle of the weapon the bullet continues to spin, and this gyroscopic action maintains the bullet in stable nose-on flight during its passage through the air, which reduces air-resistance and adds enormously to the degree of accuracy obtainable, even at long ranges.
Sporting Rifles,—Modern sporting rifles are made in all calibres from -22 to *6oo, and with numerous forms of action. But by far the greatest majority of sporting rifles intended for deer stalking or big-game shooting are made with bolt actions and magazines on similar lines to military rifles. Such rifles, however, are also made with double barrels, both hammer and hammerless, when their appearance and lines are very similar to shotguns. They are also made as so-called "automatics," and occasionally as single-shot single-barrelled weapons, that is they have no magazines but need to be reloaded after every shot. The actions then used are either that known as the Falling Block, or else the old Martini. But since neither of these actions is very suitable for powerful modern cartridges, they are now seldom encountered.
Much lighter, and less powerful, sporting rifles are also made for use against rooks, rabbits and such small animals. These weapons are invariably single barrelled, and are either fitted with hammer or hammerless actions like those of shotguns, or else with Martini or bolt actions, while others have magazines and still others are so called "automatics/' but actually are semi-automatics or self-loaders. These last two types of "miniature" rifles are always made in *22 calibre; but the former types are also made in -250, -275, -295, 300, 310, 320 and -360 bores, although even in their case the -22 is far the most common.
Military Rifles,—This group comprises the various Service Rifles of the different countries. Most are made with magazines and bolt actions of various types, but some are semi-automatic and even automatic, and the calibres range from -256 (6-5 mm.) to -311 (7*9 mm.).
Target Rifles.—Rifles used for full range target shooting, that is from 200 to 1,200 yards, or even more, are almost always specially selected military rifles of some sort or another, although the wooden butts and wooden portions adjoining the barrel are sometimes reduced or altered in form. But for all practical purposes these rifles may be regarded as good quality military rifles.
Small Bore Target Rifles,—These rifles are always of •22 calibre and are used for " Small-Bore'' target shooting. They are invariably single loading weapons, and are commonly made in Great Britain with Martini actions although in America some forms of bolt action are also popular. They are purposely made very heavy, comparatively speaking, so as to enable the shooter to hold his weapon steady with less effort, as too light a rifle fails to settle down in the hand and, contrary to popular belief, is much more difficult to hold absolutely still.
Revolvers.—We now come to the class of rifled arm which is intended to be used with one hand only. The first of this class is the Revolver, which is really a form of repeating pistol. It derives its name from the cylindrical magazine which rotates immediately in rear of the barrel. This "cylinder" usually holds five or six cartridges, each in a separate chamber, and each chamber can be aligned in turn with the bore. After firing a shot the hammer is cocked, and this cocking of the hammer rotates the cylinder until the next cartridge is in the proper position for firing. When this one has been fired the operation is repeated. The shooter is thus able to fire five or six shots with great rapidity and without reloading.
Revolvers are made with "single action" and "double action." In the single action type the hammer must be cocked by hand after each shot, and the weapon is then fired in the usual way by pressing the trigger. In the double action type the hammer can be cocked by hand, but it can also be cocked by a prolonged pull on the trigger. Thus with this type of revolver the full complement of shots can be fired merely by pulling the trigger after each shot.
Revolvers are also made with hammerless actions, in which the hammer is contained inside the actual action, and is hidden from view. Such revolvers must obviously be double-action weapons. The better-class hammerless revolvers are all fitted with some sort of safety device to prevent accidental discharge when the weapon is being carried loaded.
Revolvers are made in calibres which vary from *22 to *455. There was, however, a Montenigrin Gasser Revolver of calibre 11-75 mm. or -459 of an inch, which was made in Belgium, weighing from 4 to 5 pounds, and which was sold to Balkan and South American countries.
Self-Loading Pistols.—'The next type of pistol is the so-called "automatic." I have purposely used the words "so-called," as stricdy true automatic pistols are only made by Mauser, and possibly one or two other makers. But such are really "sub-machine guns."
An automatic firearm is one which will continue to fire, and go on firing, as long as the trigger is held back. Machine guns are true automatics.
A weapon in which the discharge is utilised for ejecting the fired cartridge case, reloading a fresh live round in the chamber and cocking the action so that the weapon is automatically rendered ready to fire again, is termed a "Self-Loader" or "Semi-Automatic." In all self-loaders the trigger must be pressed anew for every shot that is fired.
Almost all so-called automatic pistols, and rifles too, are really semi-automatic, self-loading weapons. It may appear to verge on pedantry to differentiate thus, especially in view of the almost universal and popular use of the term "automatic." But it must be remembered that the difference between an automatic and a self-loader is really the difference between some form of machine gun and a pistol, so I do not think it unreasonable to advocate what is really nothing more than ordinary accuracy of nomenclature.
Self-loading pistols are totally different in appearance from revolvers; they have no cylinder, but carry their cartridges in a vertical magazine (which usually holds six to seven) in the stock; and are flatter than revolvers.
The makes and variations of self-loading pistols are legion, yet all makes bear a strong family likeness one to another. In calibre they range from the baby '167 (4*25 mm.) Lilliput to the '455 Webley and Scott.
(A) A Colt -45 hammer Self-loading Pistol (B) An Ortgies -32 hammerless Self-loading Pistol (C) A Mauser 7-63 mm. Self-loading Pistol
Plate III shows the appearance of typical revolvers, and Plate IV some typical self-loading pistols.
There is one other type of weapon which deserves mention as it is really the connecting link between self-loaders and automatics. This is the Sub-Machine Gun, the best known of which are probably the Thompson and Sten. The former is fitted with two pistol stocks and fires a -45 self-loading pistol cartridge. The cartridges are contained in a helican magazine, which is made to take 100 at a time, and the weapon can be used either as a self-loader or a true automatic. It is a favourite weapon with American gangsters. Its overall length is but 2 feet and its weight 9 lb.
Single-Shot Pistols.—Pistols are also sometimes made as single-shot weapons, and such are generally either •22 pistols or else shot pistols. The "Derringer" is really a single-shot pistol of a large calibre, usually '41 or '44.
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