Thursday, May 4, 2017

Firearms Part II - Rifles & Shotguns

Just as in my last post regarding firearms, Firearms Part I, Handguns, I'm not addressing military grade or anything from the Star Wars catalog. Regarding the latter, I'm attaching a Mythbusters episode regarding whether a blaster can really be dodged.
(Can we just pause a moment in honor of Adam, Jamie and the whole lot? I miss them!)

Rifle - a gun fired from shoulder level, having a long spirally grooved barrel.

Rifling in a Rifle Barrel
The grooves in the barrel of the rifle are known as rifling and they are the bread and butter of this weapon. The spin the grooves create give the bullet stability as it goes. Without it the bullet would be more flung out than shot. Because of that stability, a rifle lends itself to more accuracy over greater distances.

There are many types of rifles. Some are classified by the mechanism they use to shoot (air rifle), and some for their intended use (elephant rifle). I'm going to gloss over some of the most common, historically and now, as well as the ammo.

Rifles (and One That's Not):

Musket - If a musket doesn't have rifling, it's not a rifle. But, it has the long stock look so I'm putting it in. There were over a half dozen kinds including matchlock, flintlock and loose powder. Most smooth bore (non-rifled) were only accurate up to about 50 yards. A rifled could be accurate up to 500 yards. We get the phrase "lock, stock and barrel" from the musket.

This video is the loading and firing of a flintlock musket. It's a none too hasty undertaking.  

The phrase, "don't shoot your wad," originated with muskets. It referred to not packing your musket correctly and only the wadding coming out as a result. It was therefore a wasted shot. Originally it was not profane and to be understood as such simply shows a lack of basic musketry!

Breech Loading Rifle - a rifle in which a cartridge or shell is loaded directly in a chamber that's integral to the back portion of the barrel. These are much faster to load than the earlier muzzle loaded rifles and can also be loaded from a prone position. Most mass produced rifles are breech loading.

Cartridge/Shell - Casing in which a bullet or shot is housed. 
Revolving Rifle - has a revolving mechanism like the handheld revolver. The problem with revolving rifles is that metal fragments sprayed away from the front of the revolving mechanism and into the shooter's hand that supports the rifle barrel.

Repeating Rifle - a rifle capable of holding multiple rounds of ammo. These only fire one shot per trigger pull unless they are semi-automatic or automatic. For a definition of semi-automatic and automatic, see my post on hand guns.Firearms Part 1 - Handguns


Shotguns (aka scattergun, peppergun) - They operate as a rifle however they do not shoot a bullet. But rather, as the secondary names suggest, they scatter or pepper with shot pellets or deliver a single slug. The circumference of the spray widens with distance. So, at close distance, the circle of shot will be much smaller than if it is 100 yards away.  

xray of shot gun wounds

Slugs are slower than bullets and travel shorter distances. They must be used at closer range and are considered safer than bullets in populated hunting situations. That is not to say they will not kill someone. Slugs are as devastating as bullets at close range.

Sawed Off Shotgun - a shotgun with a purposefully shortened barrel that allows it to be used at closer range and more easily hidden. In the U.S., a shot gun barrel must be at least 18 inches or it is considered illegal.

If your character picks up a shot gun, he will not shoot a bullet and if a rifle, he will not shoot shot. If he is using a musket, he will not be able to reload with any speed or while lying on his stomach. And if he picks up a blaster rifle, well, he may have better luck than Han Solo led us to believe. 
Until the next round at, get blood on your pages!

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