The History of Rifles

Ep. 7 – Educational Video Series

The History of Rifles

With unique grooves carved into the barrel, the rifle enables shooters to have extreme accuracy over a great distance. Once used exclusively by elite regiments, see how this firearm contributed to the success of the Revolutionary War. With rifles becoming more common in the 1800s, the National Rifle Association was born and sought to encourage citizens and members alike to improve their marksmanship.

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Superior technology, determination and unconventional strategy made a big difference in the fight for American Independence. But the rifle, the preferred firearm of elite regiments like Morgan’s Rifleman, played a significant part in victories as well. Let’s see why.

Rifles have been produced since the 15 th century.

The name rifle comes from the old French word “rifler” meaning to scratch or groove. A rifle has shallow grooves cut into its barrel. In the early days of production, these grooves were straight lines. The goal of these grooves was to help mitigate the problem of residual black powder after the firearm was discharged. However, gunsmiths discovered that if the grooves were spiraled rather than straight, they give the projectile spin when it exits the barrel. And this spin gives the projectile more accuracy and the ability to travel a farther distance. These grooves are integral to the rifle – not only do they provide its name, but also the accuracy and distance that makes this firearm popular with many sharpshooters.

Today, many firearms have rifling in their barrels, but the term rifle is typically applied to firearms fired from the shoulder. The accuracy of rifles makes them popular in various applications including personal and home defense, law enforcement, military, hunting and recreation.

In 1871, due to a severe lack of marksmanship among troops, Union veterans formed the National Rifle Association.

Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate sought to promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis. The organization grew in size and popularity, and at the turn of the century began hosting competitions. These annual matches, currently held in Camp Perry, Ohio have become the benchmark for excellence in civilian marksmanship and are one of the biggest sporting events in the country today.

Precision shooting with a rifle has long been a highly sought after skill.

During the American Revolution, an elite light infantry unit called Morgan’s Riflemen helped turn the tide and bring about the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Led by General Daniel Morgan, this unit was armed with rifles, when the rest of the Continental Army and the British were mostly armed with smoothbore muskets. The rifles enabled Morgan’s men to effectively execute tactical maneuvers including the harassment of British troops during their retreat through New Jersey in 1777.

These maneuvers succeeded in lowering British morale and bolstering the American’s position eventually leading to an alliance with the French. From the earliest days of America’s history to today, rifles have played a central role as a preferred firearm in the military, law enforcement and with civilians.

Join us next time as we journey back in time to the shot heard around the world and see how that shot led Americans to the great responsibility of the right to bear arms.

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