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History Of The Rifle Essay, Research Paper

Throughout history humans have a natural sense to accomplish tasks. Most of these are to establish laws and order, and how do we keep this safe? This is the other natural human sense, the ability to be violent. Yes, warfare has been apart of history as well as government and travel have. Nothing has done more to change the way we make war more than the gun has. As Mark Twain put it They are the most deadly and unerring things that have ever been created by man. – Advice to Youth speech, 4/15/1882

The rifle is one type of gun that has revolutionized the field of combat. The first mentioned of the use of rifled small arms is found in an edict of the Swiss government issued in 1563. The first such weapons were crude and were of little value when used with the spherical bullets and cannonballs at the time(Encarta 1 of 9). This is a pretty hard concept, but think of it more aerodynamic, a baseball or a rocket?

There were three reasons for the rare use of rifles during the ante-bellum. 1) The process of making holes in the bore of the gun (to allow rifling) was very costly at the time. (They all had to be made by hand)(Trinity1 of 4) 2) the rifles fired ball ammunition that could not fully feel the benefit of rifling.{though accuracy was improved a little)(Trinity2 of 4) 3)The ball ammunition was harder to load because it would get stuck on the cut holes.(Trinity3 of 4)

The rifle saw its first real action during the American Revolutionary War but on a limited base. The three reasons above were the major drawbacks at the time. A young inventor named Patrick Ferguson made the first practical rifle.(Encarta2 of 9) His breechlock was grooved to prevent the action s being jammed with powder.(Encarta3 of 9) The rifle could be fired six times a minute, a major advance in firepower for the time. But because of official conservatism not more than 200 of them were made.(Encarta4 of 9) Other rifles were acquired through trade with the German mercenaries which played a larger role as a part of there military.(Encarta4 of 9)- But rifles were not used to their full potential until the civil war.

During the pre-Civil War and continuing on into the post was a great time of ideas and inventions that would revolutionize the way rifles were made and shot. First Simeon North, who ran a small scythe making business, was requested by the government to make rifles on December 10, 1823; he received his first rifle contract, for 6000 rifles to be delivered in five years.(Encarta5 of9)

In 1825 he devised a repeating rifle that could fire 10 rounds without reloading.

The other major player in the invention trend was a man named Henri-Gustave Delvigne. He was a French army officer and inventor who designed innovative rifles and helped introduce the cylindrical bullet.(Encarta6 of 9) In 1826 he introduced the Delvigne rifle, the powder chamber was slightly narrower than the barrel. When the rifle ball was dropped down the barrel against the chamber, a few blows of the ramrod expanded the ball to fit the rifled grooves snugly.(Encarta) Although this system had several drawbacks (such as the slow time to load) it performed well in Algeria and was used extensively. (Encarta 5 of 9) Delvigne began experimenting with elongated bullets as early as 1830.(Encarta 5 of 9) He designed a cylindro-conical bullet with a hollow base that would expand to fit the rifling grooves when fired.(Encarta 5 of 9) Although he did little to further develop the bullet, the basic idea (the idea of the elongated bullet) was adopted by the French inventor Claude-Etienne Minie in the widely used Minie ball.(Encarta 5 of 9)

Then the spark to the powder keg to the rifle industry; the Civil War. There is nothing that better spurs American industry than a war; and the soldiers and officials noticed the rifle s effective and deadly potential. The model 1861-rifled musket was chosen as the principal infantry arm of the Civil War. (SmitH3 of 4) Produced in tremendous numbers by the Union and captured by the confederacy, this arm that most soldiers on both sides carried.(Smith 2of 4)The model 1861was the most widely produced American military long arm to that time.(SmitH3of 4) During the Civil War over 1,500,000 of the 1861 pattern rifle muskets were produced by the Springfield National Armory and two private Contractors.(SmitH3 of 4)

With the new bullets and guns the Americans were ready to turn on one another; these were a huge factor in the war. The cone shaped bullet had a very different way of wounding than a ball-shaped bullet would. The bullet would hit and shatter any bone and any muscle tissue that it would come into contact with. This is the reason for the amputations the arms and other limbs were so badly damaged that they were beyond repair. This was opposed to the ball type ammunition that would leave a deep welt to going through tissue; these were easily extracted and usually could be repaired, usually. Furthermore there were other factors leading to the high casualties and he sheer amount of amputations. First there was no sterilization so once shot there were many that died from infection rather than by the gunshot. Second the lead that was used (a soft metal) would mushroom and would inflict a larger wound.

This would be the first war in human history that rifles were used to such a large extent and would certainly not be the last. The results of Civil War were a deadly processor to what would occur in the wars to come both in casualties and the sheer horror of war.

The next war to see the rifles action war the forgotten about Spanish-American war. In this war the Americans were outgunned for the majority of the war (until the supply of Gatling guns were manufactured). The guns used at the present time were blot action with a clip; this meant a soldier had to use a mechanism similar to a bolt lock on a hotel door. This would affect the performance of the troops in battle. One other note this was the first battle that was largely fought with gun cartridges this made the individual troop of men of greater importance. With the new technology the troops could fire faster and more often than to stop and load black powder in etc.

Then the United States entered world war one the primary weapon of this war as you may have guessed was the rifle. The models were the 1914 and the 1917 model Enfield rifles. This war was the first with the implication of the machine gun; the rifle gave the soldier the accuracy he needed to take out a gun emplacement several hundred yards away(Encarta6 of 9). What the Americans could not build they bought, they signed a deal with the French to produce a light machine gun. The guns received seemed well built but with deadly flaws. The gun was designed to be massed produced the problem there was no universal part code which meant all the parts at the different factories were not compatible. When one gun broke the other parts would not fit, deeming the gun useless. Also if that was not enough the guns magazine (the place where the ammunition was kept) had holes in the side to reveal how much ammo one had. As you may imagine dirt and mud found its way in almost every gun causing it to be famous for jamming.

The United States learned its lesson form world war one and carried those into the second. The soldiers needed to develop a semi-automatic rifle to do the job. Garand was the inventor of the m-1 Garand rifle the widely used rifle at the time.(Encarta6 of 9) The rifle could be fired eight times and could hit targets up to and including 300 yards.(Encarta6 of 9) This amazing design was both simple and easy to use and was brought to all theaters of combat; and it saw service to a degree in the Korean war.

One of the most important inventions in rifle history happened in 1947 two years after the war. A man by the name of Kalashnikov invented the most widely used assault rifles in the world.(an assault rifle is essentially a rifle that can fire automatically and fire smaller ammunition) The AK-47 (which is the automatic Kalashnikov and the year it was invented (1947)) is the most widespread weapon in the world.(Encarta6 of 9) More than 50 army in the world have this as the focal point in there arsenals.(Enarcta6of 9)

Where the future of the rifle takes us still remains uncertain; we as humans have reached a focal point in the development of arms. The rifle has been a major player in the shaping of today. It has determined the fate of nations and has put man facing man on the field of combat. Rifle was and still is one of the most innovative accomplishments of mankind; it is this authors prediction the rifle will be used on the battlefields of today and the battlefields of tomorrow.

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