THE MILITARY RIFLE
Maurice H. Decker.
|T IS QUITE POSSIBLE that the military rifle of to-day has reached its highest state of efficiency and development. The bolt action system in use upon every model of military rifle adopted by all modern nations has proved itself best suited to the needs of the soldier, combining as it does sufficient speed, with strength, durability and fool-proof construction. The requirements of a successful military model are power and range, strength and durability and a safe, simple construction, with as few working parts as possible, so designed that the chances of any becoming misplaced or jammed are exceedingly remote.
The bolt action is undoubtedly the strongest and safest system of breech closing in existence. To develop the high velocity of the military arm an enormous charge of high power powder is necessary and a breech system of remarkable strength is necessary to withstand the powerful thrust of the powder gases, not only a single shock, but hundreds of explosions in rapid succession when metal becomes hot and in a severe state of expansion. So strenuous is the life of a military rifle that the European governments now at war have found it necessary to provide each soldier with not one, but three rifles, to enable him to maintain his fire. Two he takes into the trench with him and fires them alternately changing as soon as one becomes too hot to handle with comfort and the third is in the repair shop. Metallic fouling is also a factor to be reckoned with and as the active soldier has little time to devote to the care of his weapon, its barrel may become useless after three months service. Special care must be taken to design the military rifle so all sensitive parts are well protected, which accounts for the reason the wood forearm upon all models extends well out to the muzzle of the barrel. In active service the weapon is subjected to many hard knocks and is often placed in indifferent hands. In Europe, when a number of rifles are captured and the captors have not sufficient time or opportunity to remove them from the field, they are rendered useless by hitting them upon the ground in such a manner as to break off the stock at the grip. This makes the arm of no value until a new stock is fitted, and is a much quicker and easier method than to remove and make away with the bolt of the action, as is recommended by some authorities.
Without a doubt the New Springfield rifle now manufactured and adopted by the U. S. government is the most perfect and most powerful weapon in existence, or was at the opening of the present war. What other nations have developed and put into use since is a matter of conjecture only, for needless to say they are not advertising any improvements or inventions. It possesses practically the German Mauser rifle action, with several small improvements, in fact we paid royalties upon the first one hundred thousand arms made in our arsenals to the Mauser factory. American inventors usually lead in the development of engines of destruction, but we have for the past twenty years depended upon foreign countries for small arms. Prior to the adoption of the New Springfield our soldiers were armed with Krag-Jorgensen repeating rifles, made in Denmark. In other lines, however, our own genius has maintained the lead. An American conceived the idea of the huge howitzers that are used with such terrific effect by German artillery-men and the Lewis machine gun, invented by Col. I. N. Lewis, and adopted by England, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland, is given the credit for performing the most satisfactory work upon the European battlefields.
The .30 caliber seems to be the ideal bore for military purposes, as is proven by the fact that it has been recognized as standard by all modern nations, after extensive experimenting with sizes both larger and smaller. Our Revolutionary War was fought with muzzle-loading rifles of a caliber identical with the modern 12 gauge shotgun and needless to say, when a man was hit with a ball from one of these smooth bore weapons he was hors-de-combat, to say the least. From this size the next step was the .50 caliber muskets and Old Springfields used in the Civil War; then came the .45 Springfield and later the present .30 caliber. At one time the government experimented with a small bore 6 MM. or .236 caliber rifle known as the Lee Straight-Pull, but after a short time they were discarded for the popular and universal .30.
One reason why the statement made in the beginning of this article, that the military rifle has probably reached its highest state of development, is correct, is that authorities upon military affairs are beginning to realize that the repeating rifle is not, as was formerly believed, the most destructive force in the personnel of an army. The automatic machine gun is rapidly coming to the front as a terrific engine of destruction and belligerent nations are increasing as fast as possible the numbers of these weapons in the ranks of their armies. The machine gun fires and reloads at the rate of some 600 shots per minute and utilizes the force of its own recoil to turn the trick. When in action it is hardly possible to discern one shot from another and a perfect stream of flame spurts from its muzzle. The modern models are not much heavier or bulky than an ordinary infantryman's rifle and can be easily carried and handled by a single man; but usually two others are present to help feed in the cartridges.
When one considers that one machine gun with a squad of three men is as effective as fifty with repeating rifles, it is no wonder their numbers are being swiftly augmented in all active armies. A couple of modern machine guns could have broken up the famous Picket charge of our Civil War much more speedily than did the division of infantry which opposed him. Therefore one can hard!; with reason expect to witness much improvement in the present military rifle, which as represented by our New Springfield, seems to fit and fill all requirements for such a need. The machine gun and rapid-firing heavy and medium heavy artillery are going to be the deciding features of the present and all future conflicts It is considerably quite a long step from on; of the Civil War muzzle-loading cannon, which fired a bag of black powder and a red hot solid round ball, to the present enormous howitzers, which shoot an explosive shell containing 6 lbs.pounds of nitro-powder.
All improvements in the military rifle to date have been to improve its range and velocity, while the progress a designing artillery has been along the line or not only increasing its effective range, but c; developing its destructive powers, when the projectile hits to an enormous degree. In fact, the military rifle has lost in shocking effect ii anything. It usually drills a neat hole in the soldier's body and if not in a vital spot, his chances for recovery are very good. Some c the new Spitzer pointed bullets are reporter as making very serious wounds due to their high velocity and to the fact that often the turn and "key-hole" when hitting any object.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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