Battle rifle

Battle rifle
U.S. M14

A battle rifle is a military service rifle that fires a full power rifle cartridge, such as 7.62x51mm NATO. While the designation of battle rifle is usually given to post-World War II select fire infantry rifles such as the H&K G3, the FN FAL or the M14,[1] this term can also apply to older military bolt-action or semi-automatic rifles such as the Mosin-Nagant, Mauser 98k, Lee-Enfield or the M1 Garand.



The battle rifle's power and long-range accuracy are intended to engage targets at long distances,[2] but this comes with a trade-off of length and weight that make it relatively cumbersome in close-quarter combat. Also, the recoil of a full-size cartridge makes most battle rifles difficult to control when using full-automatic fire, though a few designs have attempted to control this tendency.[3]

In contrast, assault rifles fire smaller intermediate-size cartridges such as the 5.56x45mm NATO round used in the M16, Chinese 5.8x42mm used in the QBZ-95 or the Russian moderate-velocity 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm cartridges of the AK-47 and AK-74 series of rifles. However, some overlapping of rifle design and cartridge application occurs; for example a few relatively compact selective-fire rifles in 7.62x51mm NATO caliber have been produced.[3]


During World War II both Allied and Axis researchers observed that the majority of small-arms combat occurred at distances of about 300 metres or less, with few engagements occurring beyond that range.[4][5] At these short ranges the battle rifle's advantages are mostly wasted. For this reason, modern armies have favored more compact, lighter, and more maneuverable rifles and carbines. This dimensional disadvantage provoked the development of the world's first true assault rifle that would become the German StG 44.[6]

Recently, however, there has been a general backlash against carbines and light rifles in many armies around the world[7] due to their having less range, penetration and power than battle rifles. Recent conflicts in desert environments have underscored the need for greater range while developments in body armor have created a need for more powerful munitions[citation needed]. A consequence of this was the creation of the Squad Designated Marksman program in the U.S. Army and the Squad Advanced Marksman in the U.S. Marine Corps. The role of the designated marksman is to fill the "marksmanship gap" between the rifleman (<300 metres) and the sniper (>600 metres).[8] Instead of relying on the use of smaller, lighter weapons with a higher rate of fire to hit a target, these programs place greater emphasis on marksmanship training, allowing the DM to take advantage of the greater range and power of heavier weapons. This has marked the return of battle rifles such as the U.S. Marine Corps Designated Marksman Rifle and the M14, which had been phased out previously due to their limited effectiveness in the hands of beginner marksmen compared to lighter rifles and carbines like the M16, CAR-15, and M4.


The term battle rifle is not defined or frequently used in military field manuals and government documents (being unofficially used in the field in reference to a Designated Marksman's rifle). There are some government requisition documents[9] that do make mention of a specific rifle as a battle rifle, but those documents may simply be using the manufacturer's marketing name (similar to how Springfield Armory's M14 clone is trademarked as the M1A) when referring to a semi-automatic/controlled-fire hybrid weapon. A battle rifle lacking a full-auto setting may be advertised as a feature rather than a shortcoming since it curbs a soldier's tendency to spray inaccurate fire under stress. Because of this issue, deciding what exact characteristics of a rifle should make it a battle rifle are a matter of contention.

See also


  1. ^ Charles Karwan (December 1999), "Military Guns Of The Century", Guns Magazine, 
  2. ^ "1903 Springfield". Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  3. ^ a b Hogg, Ian, and Weeks, John Military Small Arms of the 20th Century 5th ed. DBI Books (1985)
  4. ^ Markham, George, Guns of the Reich: Firearms of the German Forces 1939-1945, Arms and Armour Press (1989), pp.110-113
  5. ^ "M16 5.56mm Semiautomatic Rifle". 2005-03-12. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  6. ^ Markham, George, Guns of the Reich: Firearms of the German Forces 1939-1945, Arms and Armour Press (1989), pp.115-116
  7. ^ Drummond, Nicholas and Williams, Anthony G., Biting the Bullet (2009)
  8. ^ "Soldiers evaluate weapons, optics for program Marksmen test fundamentals of firing". 2006-08-04. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  9. ^ "Department of the Navy, Budget Estimates, Weapons Procurement (Page 154)". U.S. Navy. 2007-02. Retrieved 2009-12-24. 

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