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Action Shooting History Part 3; Bolt Action, Semi Automatic & Assault Rifle Military Guns

For long range precision shooting the bolt action is the dominate platform. Bench rest competitions out to 1,000 yards are shot with single shot bolt action rifles. The 2.2-mile sniper hit by a Canadian sniper in May 1017 was by a .50 BMG bolt action rifle. The Browning Machine Gun .50 caliber holds most of the long-range sniper records. The exception is the .338 Lapua Magnum with a kill at 2,475 meters, about 1,100 meters less than the Canadian record of 3,540 meters or 2.2 miles.

Bolt Action Rifles

During WW1 most of the primary belligerents where equipped with bolt action rifles. They used 30 caliber weapons apart from the 8mm used by the Germans. The 7.62 (.30 caliber) to the 7.9mm put all the projectiles with a diameter between .308” to .323” (7.9mm) calibers. No one had a superiority on gun fire. All the weapons held five rounds of ammunition except for the British Lee-Enfield which held ten rounds. The locking lugs of the bolt were forward of the bolt, excluding the Lee-Enfield with rear locking lugs. Rear locking lugs contributed to flexing of the bolt that may have diminished accuracy, but provided a fast and smooth action that allowed for rapid fire. So much so, that in a few instances of the Brits resorting to the ‘mad minute’ fire the Germans thought they were facing machine guns, instead of a group of soldiers with bolt action rifles.

M1 Garand Semi-Automatic Rifle

By WW2 most of the major powers where experimenting with semi-auto loading firearms. But due the war’s contingencies they entered the war primarily with bolt action weapons. Only the United States, a late comer, was armed with the “the greatest battle implement ever devised” (Gen. George S. Patton), the M1 Garand. A turn bolt (like a bolt action) with a long stroke gas piston (the piston was attached as one piece to the bolt carrier) semi-auto rifle that used a clip verses a magazine. It held eight rounds in a clip that was inserted into the breech and the bolt stripped and chambered the top round. When firing the last round, the bolt would lock to the rear and the clip was ejected. Downside, you couldn’t top off the clip, you had to shoot them all to reload. In close combat the clip made a ‘ping’ signaling to a close enemy you were out. The Germans took advantage of this on occasion in urban warfare scenarios.

Other Semi Automatic Rifles

After the second world war nearly every army was equipped with a semi-auto rifle. The US adopted the M-14, essentially a magazine fed Garand, the Soviets introduced on a large the scale the select fire AK-47 Assault rifle. Numerous captured German StG 44 with the 8mm Kurz (short in German), it was a stamped steel housed dealer of death inspired the Soviets. The AK-47 is the icon of guerilla warfare the revolution. A solid, ‘idiot proof’, reliable weapon with a select fire capability and holds up to 40 rounds of ammo.

Short Range Guns

Most combat engagement take place in under 350 meters, about 382 yards. The older more powerful cartridges were not needed. Lower power bought you better accuracy and tolerable recoil. Russian tactics rely on overwhelming fire power. We would call it ‘pray and spray’. There doctrine calls it suppressive fire. You can not hit anything if your head is down. The M-16 and its derivatives are gas operated but use direct impingement, the gases are directed to the inside of the gun’s receiver and impinge on an extension of the bolt carrier. This induces heat and solid fouling into the firing mechanism, causing reliability problems. Assault rifles shoot shorter range ammo, increasing the number or rounds that can carried. Most other weapons use either a long stroke piston or a short stroke piston. The piston short stroke system is spring loaded. The gases hit the piston and it recoils into a striker plate mechanism that force the bolt to the rear under inertia. The spring then forces it forward awaiting the gases from the next round.

Bolt Action, Lever Action & More

From the humble rock shooting hand cannon to the modern select fire magazine loaded assault rifle, the military weapon has evolved into an effective battle tool. Most civilian weapons are semi-auto or bolt action, although the lever action is popular as well.

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