RIFLE. A gun which has the inside of its barrel cut with from three to nine or ten spiral grooves, so as to resemble a female screw, differing from a common screw in this respect only, that its grooves or rifles are less deflected, and approach more to a right line, it being usual for the grooves with which the best rifled barrels are cut, to take about one whole turn in a length of thirty inches. The number of these grooves differs according to the size of the barrel and fancy of the workman ; and their depth and width are not regulated by any invariable rule. There are also different methods of charging pieces of this kind, but the usual one is as follows:—After the powder is put in, a leaden bullet, somewhat larger than the bore of the gun,is taken, and it, having been well greased, is laid on the mouth of the piece, and rammed down with an iron rammer. The softness of the lead giving way to the violence with which the bullet js impelled, that zone of the bullet which is contiguous to the piece, varies its circular form, and acquires the shape of the inside of the barrel, so that it becomes the part of a male screw, exactly fitting the indents of the rifle. And hence it happens that, when the piece is fired, the indented zone of the bullet follows the sweep of the rifles, and thereby, besides its progressive motion, acquires a circular one round the axis of the barrel, which motion will be continued to the bullet after its separation from the piece; by which means a bullet discharged from a rifled barrel is constantly made to whirl round an axis which is coincident with the line of its flight.
In Germany and Switzerland, an improvement is made in the above method, by cutting a piece of very thin leather in a circular shape, larger than the bore of the barrel. This circular piece being greased on one side is laid upon the muzzle with its greasy side downwards, and the bullet, being placed upon it, is then forced down the barrel with it: by which means the leather encloses the lower half of the bullet, and by its interposition between the rifles, prevents the lead from being cut by them. But in those barrels where this method is practised, the rifles are generally shallow, and the bullet ought not to be too large. The rifle barrels, which have been made in England, where they are not very common, are contrived to be charged at the breech, the piece being, for this purpose, made larger there than in any other part. The powder and bullet are put in through the side of the barrel by an opening, which, when the piece is loaded, is filled up with a screw. By this means, when the piece is fired, the bullet is forced through the rifles, and acquires the same spiral motion as in the former kind of pieces ; but these are neither safe nor so certain as the others.
To enable these pieces to bo loaded with greater expedition, it has been proposed to have the balls cast with projections to them, by making corresponding hollows round the zone of the bullet-mould ; by this means the balls may be fitted so accurately to the rifles as to leave scarcely any windage; while the friction will be less than it is either when the ball is put in at the breech, or forced in at the muzzle. And, to render them in this respect still more complete, the sweep of the rifles should be in each part exactly parallel to each other; for then, after the bullet is once put in motion, it will slide out of the barrel without any shake, and with a much smaller degree of friction than if the threads of the rifles have not all of them the same degree of incurvation. In the year 1827 the famous match of rifle shooting was contended at the Red House, Battersea, and won by Major Rhone, after the best shooting that was witnessed for many years; the bull's eye being frequently hit by all the four gentlemen.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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