Traditional military rifles generally fire full-sized ammunition, such as 7.62 × 51 mm (NATO standard) and 7.62 × 54R mm (Warsaw Pact standard), and were in common military use until the widespread introduction of military assault rifles. The latter are chambered for intermediate calibre ammunition, and are less cumbersome and more suited to closer-range combat.
Traditional military rifles, including those with selective fire capability (often referred to as ‘battle rifles’), have however been retained for some specialized military uses, especially where greater power and accuracy is required.
The Small Arms Survey Research Note Traditional Military Rifles provides an overview of the history of this category of small arms, and its adaptation as a specialized weapon from widespread infantry use. It includes estimates of the number of units produced for a selection of the most widely available models in military use.
Over many decades the rifle has been developed to meet the needs of a variety of military and law-enforcement users. Selective-fire battle rifles, such as the Heckler & Koch G3 or FN FAL, allow the user to select either semi- or fully-automatic firing modes. Other variations of traditional full-powered rifles are employed as sniper rifles—designed for long-range accuracy and usually bolt-action or semi-automatic—and anti-materiel/large-calibre sniper rifles.
Contrary to early expectations, intermediate calibre firearms have not fully replaced those of larger military calibre, notably those retained for sniper and 'designated marksman' use. Modern military and law-enforcement forces continue to rely on a variety of rifle types for roles to which assault rifles are not best suited. In recent years—and notably following engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq—a number of militaries have re-employed rifles to allow opposing forces to be engaged at distances beyond assault rifles’ effective range.
- Download Research Note No. 38, Traditional Military Rifles
- More on small arms
- See also Research Note No. 25, Military Assault Rifles
- See also Research Note No. 7, Anti-materiel Rifles
- See also FAL Rifles in Libya: A Guide to Data Gathering
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