Repeating Rifle
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Repeating Rifle

A repeating rifle is a single-barreled rifle capable of repeated discharges between each ammunition reloads. This is typically achieved by having multiple cartridges stored in a magazine (within or attached to the gun) and then fed indIvidually into the chamber by a reciprocating bolt, via either a manual or automatic action mechanism, while the act of chambering the round typically also recocks the hammer/striker for the following shot. In common usage, the term "repeating rifle" most often refers specifically to manual repeating rifles (e.g. lever-action, pump-action, bolt-action, etc.), as opposed to self-loading rifles, which use the recoil and/or blowback of the previous shot to cycle the action and load the next round, even though all self-loading firearms are technically a subcategory of repeating firearms.

Repeating rifles were a significant advance over the preceding single-shot breechloading rifles when used for military combat, as they allowed a much greater rate of fire. The repeating Spencer rifle saw use by cavalry during the American Civil War and the subsequent American Indian Wars, and the first repeating air rifle to see military service was the Windbüchse Rifle.

Early repeaters

  • Jennings Magazine Rifle: in 1847 Walter Hunt patented in Britain a repeating rifle he called "the Volitional Repeater". He would patent it again in the United States in 1849. This rifle featured a tubular magazine beneath the barrel and a lever mechanism to raise cartridges into the chamber. Unable to finance the building of the rifle, Hunt sold the rights to George Arrowsmith who in turn had an employee, Lewis Jennings, improve the lever mechanism. Courtland Palmer placed the first order for the "Jennings Magazine rifle" for his hardware store: Robbins & Lawrence. The rifle did not sell well as the ammunition was a hollow based bullet containing gunpowder. Most of the guns were later converted to single shot rifles. Two employees working at Robbins & Lawrence: Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson improved the design and sold it as the "Smith-Jennings Repeating Rifle".[1]
  • Lagatz Rifle: a modification of the Lorenzoni System, invented in the 18th century.[2]
  • Jobard Rifle: a turret rifle with 14 shots patented in Belgium in 1826 and presented to the government in 1835.[3][4]
  • Thomson Rifle: a flintlock repeating rifle patented in 1814, using multiple breeches to obtain repeating fire.[5]
  • Colette Gravity Pistol: a repeating saloon gun designed in the early 1850s. Despite popularly being known as the Colette Gravity Pistol its original inventor was actually a Belgian called Jean Nicolas Herman.[6][7]
  • Henry Rifle: a French 14 shot flintlock rifle in the style of the Kalthoff and Lorenzoni rifles patented in 1831 (granted in 1835) by Francois-Antoine Henry though possibly based on an earlier design published in 1809 by the same author.[8][9]
  • Needham Self-Loading Carbine: A self-loading carbine demonstrated in June 1851 at the Great Exhibition by Joseph Needham.[10]
  • Dixon Self-Loading and Self-Priming Gun: A repeating gun demonstrated by a C. S. Dixon which won a silver award at the Annual Fair of the American Institute in October 1851.[11]
  • Buchel Cartridge Magazine Gun: The first tubular cartridge magazine gun to be patented in the United States in February 1849.[12]
  • Porter Self-Loading Gun: In February 1851 a loose-powder-and-ball percussion magazine gun invented by a Parry W. Porter, better known for the turret rifle he invented and to which the magazine for his loose-powder-and-ball gun was to be attached, was reported on in American newspapers and later in the same year a patent was procured by the inventor.[13][14]
  • Silas Day Magazine Gun: A percussion revolving rifle to which was attached a loose-powder-and-ball magazine patented in the US in 1837.[15]
  • Girandoni air rifle: Repeating air rifle designed in 1779
  • Roper repeating shotgun
  • Cookson repeater
  • Kalthoff repeater
  • Colt revolving rifle
  • Spencer repeating rifle
  • Harmonica gun



Revolver action

Circuit Judge revolver mechanism carbine

While some early long guns were made using the revolver mechanism popular in handguns, these did not have longevity. Even though the revolver mechanism was fine for pistols, it posed a problem with long guns: without special sealing details, the cylinder produces a gas discharge close to the face when the weapon is fired from the shoulder, as was a common approach with rifles.

Falling block action

Although most falling-blocks were single-shot actions, some early repeaters used this design, notably the Norwegian Krag-Petersson and the U. S. Spencer rifle. The former loaded from a Henry-style underbarrel magazine; the latter fed from a tubular magazine in the buttstock.

Lever action

Marlin Model 1894C lever-action carbine in .357 Magnum caliber

In a classic lever-action firearm of the Henry-Winchester type, rounds are individually loaded into a tubular magazine parallel to and below the barrel. A short bolt is held in place with an over center toggle action. Once closed, the over center action prevents opening solely by the force on the bolt when the weapon is fired. This toggle action is operated by a hand grip that forms part of the trigger guard. When operated, a spring in the tubular magazine pushes a fresh round into position. Returning the operating lever to the home position chambers the round and closes the breach. An interlock prevents firing unless the toggle is fully closed. The famous Model 1873 Winchester is exemplary of this type. Later lever-action designs, such as Marlin leverguns and those designed for Winchester by John Browning, use one or two vertical locking blocks instead of a toggle-link. There also exist lever-action rifles that feed from a box magazine, which allows them to use pointed bullets.

A one-off example of Lever action reloading on automatic firearms is the M1895 Colt-Browning machine gun. This weapon had a swinging lever beneath its barrel that was actuated by a gas bleed in the barrel, unlocking the breech to reload. This unique operation gave the nickname "potato digger" as the lever swung each time the weapon fired.

Pump action

The Colt Lightning .22 pump action rifle

With a pump-action firearm, the action is operated by a movable fore-end that the shooter moves backwards and forwards to eject a spent round, and extract and chamber a fresh round of ammunition. Pump-actions are usually associated with shotguns, but one example of a pump-action rifle is the Remington Model 7600 series. Rifles with pump action are also called slide-action. This style of rifle is still popular with some local law enforcement branches as a rifle that is easy to train officers who are already familiar with the pump shotgun.

Bolt action

Opened bolt on a Winchester Model 70. The bolt has an engine turned finish

The bolt is a mechanism that is operated by hand to extract a fired cartridge, move a fresh round into the chamber and reset the firing pin, readying the weapon to fire again. The bolt closes the breech end of the barrel and contains the firing pin. The bolt is held in place with a lever that fits into a notch. Moving this lever out of the notch will release the restraint on the bolt, allowing it to be drawn back. An extractor removes the spent cartridge, which is then ejected through the lever slot. A spring at the bottom of the magazine pushes up the reserve rounds, positioning the topmost between the bolt and the chamber at the base of the barrel. Pushing the bolt lever forward chambers this round and pushing the lever into the notch locks the bolt and enables the trigger mechanism. The complete cycle action also resets the firing pin. The Mauser rifle of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the most famous of the bolt action types,[] with most similar weapons derived from this pioneering design, such as the M1903 Springfield and the Karabiner 98 Kurz rifle (abbreviated often as Kar98k or simply K98). The Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle, the British Lee-Enfield, and the Norwegian Krag-Jørgensen are examples of alternate bolt action designs.



In blowback operation, the bolt is not actually locked at the moment of firing. To prevent violent recoil, in most firearms using this mechanism the opening of the bolt is delayed in some way. In many small arms, the round is fired while the bolt is still travelling forward, and the bolt does not open until this forward momentum is overcome. Other methods involve delaying the opening until two rollers have been forced back into recesses in the receiver in which the bolt is carried. Simple blowback action is simple and inexpensive to manufacture, but is limited in the power it can handle, so it is seen on small caliber weapons such as machine pistols and submachine guns. Lever-delayed blowback, as seen in for example the French FAMAS assault rifle, can also handle more powerful cartridges but is more complicated and expensive to manufacture.


In a recoil-operated firearm, the breech is locked, and the barrel recoils as part of the firing cycle. In long-recoil actions, such as the Browning Auto-5 shotgun, the barrel and breechblock remain locked for the full recoil travel, and separate on the return; in short-recoil actions, typical of most semiautomatic handguns (e.g. the Colt M1911), the barrel recoils only a short distance before decoupling from the breechblock.


FN FAL battle rifle

In a gas-operated mechanism, a portion of the gases propelling the bullet from the barrel are extracted and used to operate a piston. The motion of this piston in turn unlocks and operates the bolt, which performs extraction of the spent cartridge and via spring action readies the next round. Almost all modern military rifles use mechanisms of this type.

See also


  1. ^ Boorman, Dean (2002). The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms. The Lyons Press. pp. 16-17. ISBN 1-58574-721-1.
  2. ^ Westwood, David (2005). Rifles: An Illustrated History Of Their Impact. US: ABC-CLIO. p. 71. ISBN 1851094016.
  3. ^ "Jean Baptiste Ambroise Marcellin Jobard -". (in French).
  4. ^ (Paris), Exposition de 1839 (1841). "Rapport sur l'exposition de 1839, [industrie française]. Par J.B.A.M. Jobard".
  5. ^
  6. ^ McCollum, Ian (September 1, 2015). "RIA: Colette Gravity Pistol". Forgotten Weapons.
  7. ^ "Nouvelle page 0".
  8. ^ "Archives des Decouvertes et des Inventions Nouvelles, Faites dans les Sciences, les Arts et les Manufactures, tant en France que dans les Pays etrangers". 1809.
  9. ^ "Description des machines et procedes specifies dans les brevets d'invention, de perfectionnement et d'importation, dont la duree est expirée". 1837.
  10. ^ "Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851". 1851.
  11. ^ "Transactions of the American Institute of the City of New-York". 1852.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^

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