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Rifle

is from the German reifeln (to hollow into tubes). In 1851 the French minié rifle was partially supplied to the British army. In 1853 it was superseded by the Enfield rifle, which has three grooves. Sir William Armstrong's gun, which has numerous small sharp grooves, was adopted by the government in 1859. The Whitworth gun has a polygonal bore, with a twist towards the muzzle. (“Rifle” is Norwegian for a groove or flute.)

Rifles are either “breech-loaders” or “magazine rifles” Breech-loading rifles load at the breech instead of at the muzzle; magazine rifles are those which contain a chamber with extra cartridges.

The chief breech-loading rifles are the Ballard, the Berdan, the Chaffee, the Chassepot (a French needle-gun, 1870-1871), the Flobert-Gras (an improved Chassepot, 1874-1880), the Greene, the Hall, the Minie-Henry (Great Britain, 1890), the Maxim, the Magnard, the Minie the Morgensten, the Peabody, the Peabody-Martini (Turkey), the Scott, the Sharp, the Springfield (United States, 1893), the Werder (Bavaria, the Werndi, the Whittemore, the Westley-Richards, and the Winchester.

The magazine or repeating-rifles are also very numerous. The best known to the general public are Colt's revolver and the Winchester repeating-rifle of 1892. They are of three classes: (1) those in which the magazine is in the stock; (2) those in which the magazine is a tube parallel with the barrel (as in Colt's revolver); and (3) those in which the magazine is either a fixed or detachable box near, the lock. The once famous Enfield rifle was loaded at the muzzle. In Spencer's rifle the magazine was in the stock.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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