The greatest battle implement ever devised.Back to Cool Guns
—General George S Patton, on the M1 Garand.
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Winchester lever-action rifle
AKA "The Gun That Won the West", the Winchesternote is the quintessential lever-action rifle seen in numerous westerns. In real life, the unique design was for its main utility as a horseback gun; the shorter barrel and the repeating lever made it easier for horseback soldiers to fire off of a speeding horse. While The Wild West is long gone, the Winchester rifle and its lever-action cousins are still used today for hunting.note In movies, the model in question will almost always be the Model 1892 carbine, due to the ubiquity of the "Five-in-One" blank cartridge.note A Model 1866 (with a brass or "yellowboy" receiver) will often have the forestock removed and do double duty as a Civil War-era Henry rifle (the Winchester's immediate predecessor), as until recent reproductions came onto the scene, the "Yellowboy" Winchester was much more readily available. It should noted that it's successor, the 1893 Winchester, is the original "trench gun" and "street sweeper". A little known thing is that after WWI the Germans tried to make the use of shotguns in combat illegal and the US said no.
Any World War II movie featuring Americans will feature this rifle. One of the first semi-automatic weapons fielded by a major army, it fired 8 rounds of .30-06 from its internal clip-fed magazinenote , and continues to be a sticking point among people trying to explain the difference between a clip and a magazine, as one of the few examples of a clip being physically inserted into a weapon. Legendary durability was a plus, too, though the gun had a nasty snap to its action that lead to a common complaint known as "rifleman's thumb" or more simply "M1 thumb." Commonly said to have the "disadvantage" that the ejecting en-bloc clip made a distinctive ping when it hit the ground; in practice this was not nearly as large a problem as is often believed, since the ping was usually drowned out by gunfire, only occurred on hard surfaces, and the rifleman with a Garand reloaded more quickly and fired faster than any opponent with a Mauser-derivative could hope to. Not to mention the fact that war is not fought as a one-on-one duel, and it's generally unlikely for the entire squad to run out of ammo at the same time. In fact, some riflemen took advantage of this quirk, whereby they would intentionally make the pinging noise to tempt enemies out of cover. Some Italian versions (the Beretta BM59) with detachable box magazines were produced after World War II, and for a time were the standard rifle of the Italian Army. With the advent of automatic rifles, the American military tried to convert the M1 into the M14 battle rifle. Even by changing the ammo from .30-06 to .308 Winchester / 7.62x51 NATO, it turned out to be too much dakka. This was noted, sadly, after it was instituted as a standard rifle round. Italy had the same problem with their full-auto BM59 models, meaning that in practice only semi-auto was actually used. In fact, the full auto selector switch was frequently removed from the M14, so that soldiers wouldn't be tempted to waste ammo with uncontrollable full-auto fire. The M1 itself stayed in service through Korea and was still in limited use in Vietnam, especially the M1D sniper variant with a fitted scope. Garands served with other military elements well into the 70s, and are still used by military drill teams even today.
The assault rifle before assault rifles were cool.note The M1 Carbine fires a bullet with the inventively named caliber of .30 Carbine, which was designed to cover the gap in effective range between .45 ACP SMGs and the .30-06 M1 Garand. Utilizing a short-stroke gas system devised by a no-shit convictnote , 15-, and later (post-war) 30-round detachable box magazines (when the British Lee-Enfield had only 10, and the iconic Garand had a mere 8) and its own proprietary .30 caliber round, the weapon was a favorite of paratroopers, officers, and vehicle crews. In fact, a primary purpose for this weapon was to provide a decent longarm for behind-the-lines troops in case an enemy using blitzkrieg tactical doctrine outmanoeuvre the front line troops and interdict their support system instead. The Nazis, especially the Waffen-SS, also loved captured M1 Carbines. A variant with a pistol grip and a folding wire stock, the M1A1, was actually developed for paratroopers so that they could have a longarm from the moment they hit the ground instead of having to assemble their weapons while people were trying to kill them. It saw extensive use in Korea (where it obtained a significant hatedom due to its perceived lack of stopping powernote and the M1 was even used through to the end of Vietnam, as well as use by nearly every Western European military (the French Foreign Legion particularly adored it) and the nascent State of Israel (where it remains beloved by police units to this day, to the point where it's being attempted to market a bullpup conversion kit◊ for the guns so the police can update to a modern weapon while still using the "same guns"). The M2 variant was full-auto, and the one issued in Korea, and the M3 version saw one of the world's first night sights (which was incredibly bulky, and that's not even including its primitive battery which was so large it had to be carried in a separate backpack and attached via cable). In addition to surplus rifles, very slightly modified versions were produced for civilian sales (the main difference being that the wood handguard is replaced by a perforated sheet metal one), which for a time were very popular as self-defense weapons.
The SKS was designed and fielded in the last days of World War 2. Firing the intermediate 7.62x39mm round (which is known for being the same caliber used by the AK-47), it was soon replaced by AK pattern weapons and ultimately forgotten in the Soviet Union. It went on to have quite a long career in the People's Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples' Republic of North Korea, the Democratic (later Socialist) Republic of Vietnam and numerous other former Soviet client states, and it is still quite a popular gun around the world today. Visually, it is very similar to the SVT-40, although not quite as pretty, a good bit lighter, and 8 inches shorter. The SKS features a fixed magazine with a capacity of 10 rounds which can be filled either by clips, or one at a time. The SKS is slightly more powerful and accurate than the AK because it features a longer barrel and better sights. Most have bayonets that fold underneath the barrel, or at least originally did; some (especially from China) had the bayonet removed prior to import. When the Communist Bloc fell, all of a sudden, it was suddenly available for very cheap with crates of Soviet and Chinese ammunition (Soviet variants qualified for "Curio and Relic" status, as do Yugoslavian ones [most of which have an attachment for firing rifle grenades via blank ammo, which is mostly useless since grenades are illegal but which has spawned a popular golf ball launcher attachment], along with the ultra-rare East Germannote , North Korean and Vietnamese versions, which bypassed some restrictions (on account of being brought home from Vietnam] as war trophies rather than imported the normal way), and the fixed magazine meant that they were not at all affected under the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban of 1994) (which when it game to rifles only dealt with those with a detachable magazine), and a large number of people found that the ballistics matched up nicely with those of the .30-30 Winchester 1894 (the "poor man's deer rifle" of the previous century). Frequently susceptible to being "bubba'd" with optical sights (The rifles are accurate out to 400M, although putting scopes on them is rather pointless), "tactical" accessories (or "tacticool", as some disparagingly call them; these include jam-happy aftermarket detachable magazines) and camo paint. Now it's a favorite of both hunters, as well as mall ninjas on too low a budget for an AR-15. It is also a moderately popular choice of Home Defense weapon, being easy to use, easy to bring to bear, and firing a relatively more powerful round than handguns, shotgun pellets, and the AR-15 (and a round that's readily available at a low price).
Widely regarded as one of the best bolt-action rifles ever made, though this was not always the case. At the time of its introduction, it was considered to be far too inaccurate as well as unreliable for combat; there was also resistance to the idea of a magazine rifle from top brass, with fears of wasted ammo and the detachable magazinenote being lost. Early rifles often had the magazine chained to the rifle's body to prevent a careless soldier from losing it and were fitted with a "magazine cutoff," a panel that closed over the magazine and turned the rifle into a single-shot breech-loader; soldiers were ordered to use the magazine only in emergencies, an order which was so universally ignored that the cutoff ended up being deleted altogether as a cost-saving measure.note It turned out however, that the SMLE was not as bad as was thought. In fact, it was just about one of the best rifles ever made; the problem in the Boer Wars was the ammunition, not the rifle. It was accurate, reliable, and most notably, fast: every British soldier was expected to be able to do the "Mad Minute," firing not less than fifteen aimed shots in sixty seconds; most were drilled until they could manage thirty (and thus also reload three times during that time)note . This had quite an effect on the enemy; at Mons during World War 1, German soldiers reported with horror to their superiors that every British soldier was armed with a machine gun. This was helped by the fact that the rifle could carry ten rounds of ammunition at a time, double that of the rival German Mauser. Lest the Enfield be thought of as a superweapon, the design was mechanically much less sound than the Mauser or Mosin-Nagant designs; repeated firing of .303 British caused the receiver to stretch out over time, necessitating longer and longer bolt heads to be installed over the life of the weapon; good thing they designed the bolt head to be detachable. This is why, while the Mauser 98 action is used for all sorts of super-magnum big-game hunting rifles, the Enfield action was rarely used for sporting rifles. The British Army as well as the associated Commonwealth states, would continue to make use of this rifle all throughout World War I and World War II, with Lee-Enfield sniper rifles lasting all the way into the 1990s. And in India, they're still in use as police weapons to this day.note A little-known fact is that despite being the quintessential British rifle, the design of its basic action, James Paris Lee, was Americannote . After decades of minimal interest in his designs from the US Navy and a few states' National Guards (at the time they weren't standardized on the same weapons as the regular Army, just the same caliber), and none at all from the Army, he sold his latest rifle, the Lee-Metford, to the British military. An improved barrel resulted in the Lee-Enfield long rifle, followed by a succession of improvements leading to the SMLE in 1904, less than two months before his death.
The Russian analogue to Mauser-based designs, this 7.62mm bolt-action rifle was originally designed by Sergei Ivanovich Mosin, with details taken from a competing design by Léon Nagant. It was originally rolled out in 1891 and was designated at the time the "three-line rifle".note and is still in limited use today by militias and insurgents; it was replaced Russia as a general issue weapon by SKS and later AK pattern weapons and as a sniper weapon by the Dragunov. Known for crude construction, a "safety" that is non-intuitive (and in many rifles, especially those of WW2-era production, physically difficult to engage) and unknown by most owners of the weaponnote , and firing the rather powerful 7.62x54R round, this rifle was used by the Soviets in WWII, and by both sides in the Russian Civil War and the Russo-Finish Winter War (the previous two leading to the gag that the rifle has "fought itself and won every time;" the Finnish version used 7.62x53R ammunition, though the difference was mainly just in name). Said to be the weapon of legendary snipers like Vasily Zaitsev, Ivan Sidorenko and Simo Häyhä, the latter credited with 505 confirmed kills with the Finnish M28 variant. In less than a year. With no scope (Häyhä didn't trust them to not fog up in the cold or deflect sunlight straight at anyone he was trying to shoot). A massive number of these rifles were made (estimated at over 17 million) and many were packed up by the Soviets to prepare for World War III. When that never came, the crates were bought up by Americans and the rifles is now very common on the surplus market for under a hundred dollars, though prices of the carbine versions have spiked to around $250. Finnish Mosins tend to be more expensive than the Russian versions, and there are also a variety of rare variations (like the Russian M1907 and Finnish M27Rv cavalry carbines, probably the two rarest of all) that most people will never see outside of pictures or a museum. One particularly unusual, ultra-rare and totally unofficial variant was the "Obrez" pistol, a Mosin-Nagant with the stock and most of the barrel sawed off to form a highly concealable but dubiously practical weapon, which are known to have been used to some extent during the Russian Revolution.note
A series of bolt action military rifles (the two most triumphant examples being the Gewehr 98 and the Karabiner 98k, the infantry weapons of Germany during the World Wars) beginning issue in 1871 and still in limited use todaynote , the Mauser rifles have at one time or another been the standard infantry weapons of Germany, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Iran, Israel and many more. Mauser copies were also the standard infantry weapon of Nationalist China and even the United States (as the M1903 Springfield; the US actually paid royalties to Mauser until the Treaty of Versailles) and Britain (their brief flirtation with replacing the Lee-Enfield came in the form of the Mauser-derived Pattern 14 during World War I; the US also used this rifle, adapted to .30-06 as the M1917, alongside the M1903 during WW1note ), and the Japanese Arisaka also drew heavily from the Mauser (though the bolt was internally rather different, the magazine and stripper clip system were a direct copy). Czechoslovakia and Belgium also made numerous Mauser 98 clones for export between the World Wars, when Germany was prohibited from making military weapons, and to a limited extent resumed this practice after World War II until even third-world militaries stopped buying bolt-action rifles in favor of semi-autos or assault rifles. The Mauser design, although not as fast to operate as the Lee Enfield due to its cock-on-opening action, featured a third locking lug and was one of the strongest bolt-action designs of the time (allowing it to be chambered in huge big game hunting magnum rounds from the .300 Winchester Magnum to .577 African game calibers, which the Enfield and Mosin-Nagant would never be able to handle), and counts almost every current-production bolt-action rifle as a descendant. It wasn't until the Weatherby Mark V Magnums, with an insane nine locking lugs, entered the market in the late 1950s that the Mauser 98 was surpassed as the strongest bolt action design, and the abundance and lower price kept the Mauser on top sales-wise. Very common on the military surplus market, and sporterized versions are a common European hunting weapon. And not uncommon as an American hunting weapon either, on account of large numbers having been brought back as war trophies. The Mauser action is also commonly used in factory-built civilian hunting rifles.
Mannlicher-Schönauer Full Stock Carbine
Although based on a military rifle designed for export and adopted by the Greek Army by 1906 (why the chronically underfunded Greek Army adopted a rifle that every other army regarded as too expensivenote is unclear), this superb hunting bolt-action rifle-carbine had been built directly for the civilian market beginning in 1903. It had a complex action with rotary magazine and split receiver and fired proprietary Mannlicher ammo, either 6.5x54mm (M1903), 8x56mm (M1908), 9x56mm (M1905) or 9x57mm (M1910), though non-proprietary chamberings like 7x57mm Mauser and .30-06 were eventually offered. It acquired a brilliant reputation as a hunting rifle either in the Alps, British Isles or Africa, fired by such figures as Ernest Hemingway and WDM "Karamojo" Bell and proving it could take even the largest African Elephant with a well-placed shot. The action was the smoothest bolt-action in recorded history and the features that made the gun instantly recognizable also betrayed it as an "aristocratic" weapon: short length, full stock, very straight bolt operation, flat bolt handle and precise triggers (sometimes including a double trigger, with the front trigger being a "set trigger" than would set the main trigger to go off with only the slightest pull) told the gun has been aimed to be carried in a saddle sheath and used in hunting on horseback, like upper class hunters did. The full-length stock was so intrinsically linked to the Mannlicher-Schönauer carbine that even now, decades after it went out of production, such a stock is still referred to as "Mannlicher style" (even though Mannlicher himself had nothing to do with the stock design, it was more his protege Schönauer's doing). It stood in production until 1972. Steyr-Mannlicher now offers a vaguely similar rifle, the "Mannlicher Classic", which mimics the style of the Mannlicher-Schönauer but replaces the rotary magazine with a less expensive but distinctly less cool detachable box magazine and simplifies the bolt design. The proprietary Mannlicher ammo was also abandoned, even the classic 6.5x54, much to the disappointment of more nostalgic shooters (who would seem to be the target audience of the rifle, so what the hell Steyr).
The Double Rifle
The weapon of choice for the Great White Hunter should be, of course, the double rifle - not a specific model of a double rifle since there is no model whatsoever, the rifles of the golden age of African Hunting were mostly tailored to their user like Savile Row suits. As wealthy Great White Hunters were much fewer than Hollywood would like us to think, the number of true large caliber double rifles is small, in the high hundreds for the entire colonial period and an area which spanned 3/4 of Africa. Some non-custom double rifles in smaller calibers also exist, but even they are rare because the demand was just never very high. The closest thing to a "common" double rifle are combination guns, which have one rifle and one (or more) shotgun barrel: from the crude .22 rifle plus .410 bore shotgun barrels for taking small game as a survival weapon, as in the US Air Force M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon, to the Russian over-under designs which are as good at firing as they are ugly.
The Sharps series of rifles was one of the most prolific rifle types of the 1800's, and arguably the most popular rifle in use in the Wild West before the invention of lever-action rifles like the Henry repeater. The Sharps rifle is a breach-loading falling-block rifle firing a single cartridge, at first paper cartridges but later versions used brass cartridges. First developed in the late 1840's, the Sharps rifle saw a long career in a number of roles. The military rifle was the weapon of choice for U.S Sharpshooters in the American Civil War and the carbine version was extremely popular on both sides of the conflict. Meanwhile, the civilian versions gained a reputation as being powerful and accurate hunting rifles, with some going so far as to say that the Sharps rifle was the cause of the near-extinction of the North American bison and is often referred to as the 'buffalo gun'. The Sharps rifle is thus an icon of the Old West, though lesser known than the Winchester Lever-Action or the Colt Single Action Army.
The Springfield M1903 rifle is a five shot, bolt action rifle that was used by all branches of the United States military. The rifle was developed in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. There, U.S Army and Marines armed with a number of lever-action rifles and the Krag-Jørgensen rifle were often outmatched in firepower by Spanish and Cuban soldiers armed with Spanish-made versions of Gewehr 93 Mausers. Specifically, two shortcomings in the Krag's design were that it lacked the ability to be quickly reloaded with a stripper clip and it could not load high-velocity ammunition without being damaged. Though modified versions of the Krag were tested in small numbers that got rid of the first shortcoming, the U.S military knew they had to adopt a new rifle. Studying captured Mausers and applying some features of the Krag to them, they created what would be known as the Springfield M1903 chambered for the .30-03 and .30-06 rounds, the later would be the mainstay rifle round of the U.S Military until the formation of NATO. So similar to the Mauser 93 was the Springfield that Mauser Werke sued the U.S Government, who were forced to pay royalties to Mauser. In a fit of irony, the first notable engagement the rifle was used in was during World War I, used by United States Marines against German soldiers carrying Mausers. It proved to be reliable, accurate and much quicker to reload, much to the dismay of the Germans who were on the other end of it. When WW2 broke out, the United States supplied Springfields to foreign powers as part of a lend-lease program, most notably Nationalist China. The rifle was just being supplemented and eventually replaced with the M1 Garand when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor. During the first years of the Pacific Campaign and the U.S' entry into Northern Africa as part of Operation Torch, the Springfield was still the primary service rifle of the Marines and the Army until finally being (mostly) replaced by the Garand mid-way through the war. In 1942, production shifted to the M1903A3, which used cheaper stamped steel parts and a simplified but more practical rear sight.note Production continued for the duration of the war for rear-line units (and initially for the Marines, until they too had enough Garands to go around), as the production lines for Springfields were incapable of manufacturing Garands or M1 Carbines (at least, not without significant retooling that nobody had time for). The Springfield was not removed entirely from service, though. The most celebrated use for the Springfield was that of a sniper's rifle. Already an accurate and powerful rifle, many Springfields were modified to be more accurate and fitted with scopes as the M1903A4. The Springfield sniper rifle saw service after its infantry rifle version was retired, seeing service in both World Wars, The Korean War and The Vietnam War until finally being replaced by more modern bolt-action rifles based on the Remington 700 and the M21 semi-automatic rifle. Today, the Springfield is a popular collector's item and surplus examples were and sometimes still are used as hunting rifles.