from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Remington Model 700 in .30-06 Springfield with mounted telescopic sight and silencer - these and other weapons derived from the Mauser System 98 are among the most widely produced and used rifles
Classic over-and- under shotgun in caliber 12

The gun is in modern terms, except for the air rifle , one of the handguns scoring firearm , the (fired from the shoulder) as a shoulder weapon to use with two hands. The German weapons law defines guns as long guns .

Rifles with a rifled barrel or a polygon barrel are called rifles , while those with a smooth barrel are called shotguns . Further distinctions exist on the basis of the construction, charging device and use as well as in linguistic usage.


The word rifle comes from the Old High German word weri , which means something like "fortification" or "defense". The original meaning lives on in the word weir ("dam"); see. also fire brigade .

Through collective formation, the word giweri was created and from it the collective word rifle , which was finally transferred in the military to any weapon that can be carried and operated by a man (defensive weapons , but also edged weapons such as shields ). Before the invention of firearms, “rifle” described any type of weapon .

A distinction was made according to the type of carrying the upper rifle , z. B. Polearms such as Pike and Sponton ("short rifle") as well as firearms, from the lower rifles , which meant bare weapons such as swords , pallas , sabers , fascine knives and daggers . In the Prussian cavalry of the 19th century, the command "rifle open" meant drawing a saber or pallasch for the mounted troops.

Later a distinction was made between the fire rifle or shooting rifle (also a small rifle for the handguns of the infantry as opposed to the artillery ) from the side rifle for the edged weapons. The term “side gun” has been retained for the bayonet .


Arquebusier loading his weapon around the middle of the 17th century

The rifle in its current form is the further development of the original form of all firearms, the hand barrel , which was used for the first time around 1300. Originally this consisted of a cast metal barrel (comparable to a small cannon ) without any wooden components (shaft etc. were still missing completely). These hand tubes were ignited through a small opening using a fuse.

While the first hand tubes were still very imprecise, the successors in the middle of the 16th century were already somewhat more precise. A successor was the arquebus or hook box, which in shape and appearance came a little closer to the rifle known to us. Most of these early rifles already had a mechanical trigger and were still fitted with a matchlock . Due to their heavy weight, the hook bushes were usually supported on a fork or placed on walls and had a hook to support the weapon against recoil, which is where they get their name from.

Eventually the art of armouring advanced and the arquebus was replaced by the musket at the end of the 16th century . The musket was further developed and became more and more popular on the battlefield. There were hardly any limits to the inventions and so the ignition mechanism was continuously improved. After Matchlock different firings were designed with flints, wheel lock , Schnapphahn and finally the flintlock , which made the weapon to a handy and versatile weapon. Through the ignition with flint, also called flint, the name shotgun prevailed.

American Civil War era Union infantryman ( reenactor ) firing his musket

At the beginning of the 19th century a new ignition appeared, the percussion lock . Igniting the charge with a primer was another big step towards safe and easy handling. While the previous models were still very sensitive to wind and moisture, the primer was largely insusceptible to the effects of the weather and ensured that the propellant charge was largely safely ignited. With a few exceptions, these rifles were muzzle-loaders .

At the beginning of the 19th century, the first industrially manufactured breech-loaders were developed after the first rifles with rear-loading rifles had been developed in the 15th century , but due to numerous technical problems these were not yet widely used. The first breech loading rifle used by the military was the Ferguson rifle in 1776 . Finally, in 1836, the Dreyse needle gun was mass-produced in Germany , which was loaded with paper cartridges . The American Sharps Rifle followed in 1850 .

From the 1850s, the industrial production of modern cartridges with metal cases took place , which in turn influenced the further development of rifles. Only through the modern metal cartridge was the way for the development of multi-loading weapons as that produced in 1860 Henry rifle , which is still a rimfire cartridge missed and later developed Repeating and self-loading rifles for centerfire ammunition by Browning , Mauser , Mannlicher , Winchester and other designers free.

Use, technology

Rifles are handguns that, like handguns , can be carried and used by one person. They are shot from the shoulder (shoulder weapon), at short range they can also be shot from the hip. At greater distances, they can be placed to increase shooting precision; rifles with front or center supports are also available on the market.

In general, shoulder weapons with a barrel length of over 60 cm are considered rifles. Breech loading rifles consist of the barrel with the cartridge chamber behind it , also called the chamber. Behind it is the bolt , bolt action rifles are also equipped with a magazine . The trigger mechanism of the shot is called a lock. The barrel, bolt and lock are mounted on the stock with the front and rear stock (butt) and handguard . The aiming device attached to the barrel consists of a front sight and a sight; a telescopic sight or reflex sight can also be mounted to increase the shooting precision . The caliber, the amount of propellant charge in relation to the bullet weight and the barrel length are decisive for the precision of the shot and the effect on the target.


Differentiation according to the running profile

From a technical point of view, rifles are differentiated according to the type and nature of the barrel:

Rifle with rifled barrel or polygonal barrel. This helical guide in the barrel serves to give the projectile a twist or a rotation to stabilize the trajectory and to prevent the projectile from rolling over.
Rifle with a smooth barrel for firing shotgun cartridges and shotgun barrels .
Rifle with two or more smooth and rifled barrels in different combinations and arrangements.

Differentiation according to charging device

From a technical point of view, rifles are differentiated according to the type of loading device:

Rifle that is loaded through the barrel from the front.
Rifle that is loaded one at a time from behind.
Rifle that is loaded and cocked from a magazine by manual actuation of the loading mechanism (repeating) -
as lever action rifle , fore-end repeater , bolt handle rifle .
Rifle that is loaded and cocked by an automated mechanism (so-called semi-automatic).
Rifle that is loaded, cocked and fired by an automated mechanism (so-called fully automatic).

Differentiation according to construction

Rifles are also differentiated according to their construction or stock.

Differentiation according to use

Rifles are also differentiated according to their use, regardless of their technical distinguishing features.

Differentiation according to language usage

Rifles are also differentiated in common usage, regardless of technical or usage-related features. These pseudonyms have for the most part evolved over time and are therefore an integral part of everyday language usage.

Gun law definitions


The Weapons Act defines the rifle as a long weapon under the following conditions:

  • a) The barrel and breech are closed (i.e. ready to fire) at least 30 cm long.
  • b) the shortest total length that can be used as intended exceeds 60 cm (barrel, breech and stock).


The 1996 Weapons Act divides all firearms into four categories of firearms:

  • Category A (prohibited):
War material , forearm rifles (so-called pump guns).
  • Category B (subject to approval):
Handguns (pistols, revolvers), semi-automatic rifles , bolt action shotguns .
  • Category C (notifiable):
Rifles with rifled barrel (rifles), also small bore rifles .
  • Category D (notifiable):
Smooth-barreled rifles (shotguns).

There is no common classification for all rifles according to the design, but a function-related classification of firearms in general.


In the federal law on weapons, weapon accessories and ammunition (Weapons Act, WG, 514.54) of December 12, 2008 apply in accordance with

  • Art. 4. a, Devices as weapons with which projectiles can be delivered by propellant charge and which a single person can operate and carry.
  • According to Art. 8 these are subject to the obligation to acquire a weapons acquisition license.
  • According to Art. 10, the following weapons can be purchased without a weapons acquisition license: single-shot and multi-barreled hunting rifles, replicas of single-shot muzzle-loaders, repeater rifles specified by the Federal Council that are used in off-duty and sporting shooting. Their acquisition is subject to contractual and reporting requirements.

See also


  • Dictionary of German military history, Military Publishing House of the German Democratic Republic VEB, Berlin 1985
  • Brockhaus' Konversationslexikon, 7th volume, 14th edition, Leipzig 1894
  • Lueger 1904: Entry: hunting rifles
  • Meyers 1905: Entry: hunting rifle
  • Heinrich Müller: Rifles, pistols, revolvers , Stuttgart 1979

Web links

Commons : Guns  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: rifle  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Entry rifle . In: dtv Brockhaus Lexikon. Volume 7 Gew – Hat. 1988
  2. ↑ Pole rifle for rear loading, inventory no. W 3348. In: Object database. German Historical Museum , accessed on May 26, 2019 . From the time around 1500, which followed the principle of chamber guns, which was already widespread at the time .