This is the basic rifle course for Firearms Talk.
Rifles come in many different actions types. Here we will focus on the four basic types, Bolt, Lever, Single shot, Semi-auto. The rifle has a long and vaulted history dating back to the Ancient Chinese circa 1st century ad. It has evolved very much in some aspects and very little in others.
The most popular rifle action is the bolt action. This action type requires the shooter to manually rotate and move the bolt to the rear then again to the front and rotating down to unload and load the rifle. Though there are some Straight pull bolt actions out there. The Ross Straight pull, Browning T-bolt, and Blaser R8 are the first three that come to mind. The bolt action is thought to be the most accurate rifle action out there. I believe that is all the work that has been put in to developing bolt actions would be put into Semi-auto or Lever actions they would be much more accurate. The following are bolt action rifles, Savage Model 12, Remington Model 700, Winchester Model 70, Weatherby Mk V and many others. This action type is the most popular in the USA and many other countries as it is rugged and very easy to maintain. It is used the world over as Military and Police sniper rifles.
The Lever action is a very nostalgic firearm in the USA. It was the rifle that tamed the west and the Lever action Winchester model 1894 has taken more game in the USA than any other action. The operation of the lever action is simple the shooter operates a lever that is under the action and butt stock. That action opens the bolt and ejects the spent round and chambers a new round ready to fire. Not thought of as the most accurate rifle action it does great for intended purpose of taking game animals.
The Lever action is the only action that was born in the USA with the Spencer Repeating rifle designed. The Lever action can be had in many different calibers from 22lr up to 45-70 444 Marlin. There are many different rifles in productions today. The Henry Golden boy, Marlin model 1895, Marlin model 336, Winchester Model 1894, Browning BLR just a few of the wonderful selection of lever action firearms. The now out of production Savage Model 99 was a lever action of a slightly different design not feed from a tub but from a box magazine it allowed the use of spritzer and spire pointed bullets.
The Single shot rifle comes in many forms. You have falling block rolling block and break actions. The single shot dates back to the first rifle that fired one shot at a time then you had to stop and reload it. Todays single shots are just about the same as they were many years ago. The falling block as the Ruger Number 1 is uses a lever to move a solid block of metal down and out of the way. This is the strongest of the single shots as the block rides in two slots milled directly into the frame of the action. It is also capable of achieving accuracy on par with the bolt actions discussed earlier in this writing. The Maynard I believe is the first of the falling block actions. One very well-known falling block is the most popular rifle in any movie the Sharps Rifle of the Quigley Down Under movie.
The rolling block is a Remington design where the breach block rolls up to and away from the chamber for loading and unloading. It is the weakest of the single shot designs. This design weakness is because the hammer is really what holds the breach block to the breach of the rifle. So only two small pins take much of the force from the cartridge also the hammer has to be a lot stronger than many other designs as it is what is holding everything together. It was based in part on the split breech action produced by Remington during the Civil War.
The most popular single shot rifle is the break action like the Thomson center Contender and Harrington and Richardson Handi Rifle. A few other companies make break action rifle. The contender claim to fame is the fact that you can quickly and easily change barrels to just about any caliber out there.
Now last but not least the most fun to shoot rifle action of them all the Semi-Auto. First thing many think about in a semi-auto rifle is the Famed AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14. There are many different semi-auto rifle types out there blowback gas operated are the main two. The blow back uses the pressure of the expanding gas in the chamber and barrel to cycle the bolt backwards ejecting the spent shell casing and picking up and loading a fresh round of ammo in the chamber. The gas operated semi-auto rifle like the AR-15 uses a gas tube to move gas from the barrel back to the bolt to force the bolt open. This is a simple action set up but, it is also dirty.
Many are now switching to the gas piston system like that on the AK-47 or SKS rifles. This is where the gas comes up the tube to a pistol forcing the piston back moving the bolt out of battery and ejecting the round and loading a new one out of the magazine. The semi-auto is great for many different things. Many times thought to be the least accurate of the rifle action types the AR-15 is proving that theory wrong every day. Some of the more popular semi-auto rifles are the AR-15, Mini-14, M-14, M-1 Garand, Browning BAR, Ruger 10-22, Remington 597, and the Remington 750. These rifles are fun to shoot because in many cases you can empty their magazine into a target as fast as you can pull the trigger. The AR-15 if you have an A-2 flash hider it helps combat muzzle rise and allows you to be more accurate with faster shots. Many predator hunters are moving to the AR-15 for its light weight highly accurate shooting. This allows fast follow up shots on coyotes when 2 or more come to a call.