Gallery: 10 Most Influential Rifle Designs


Blaser R93

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This rifle, and its current offspring, the R8 (shown here), represent the first commercially successful straight-pull sporting rifle. Not a new concept by any means, the idea of reducing the motions required to operate a bolt rifle from four to two has fascinated rifle designers for more than a century. In fact, our own Navy and Marine Corps partially adopted the 6mm Lee-Navy straight-pull rifle in 1895, but it was a short-lived association. The straight-pull concept has shown itself to be more receptive to innovation than any other manually operated system. The Merkel RX Helix and the Heym SR-30 are two other examples, as all three employ drastically different locking systems yet work with the same pull-push motion.

Over the years, the rifle has undergone significant changes as technology and our understanding of the physical processes at work within firearms have improved. We have come a long way, and today's assortment of highly reliable, and highly accurate rifles prove this fact.

Certainly, every rifle produced advances the craft in some way, revealing what works and what doesn't and introducing new designs to build off of in the future. But what are some of the most influential rifle designs ever devised, creations that helped to revolutionize the rifle platform — and whose influence we can still see in guns produced today?

When asked what I thought were the 10 most influential rifle designs, I figured I could come up with the answers fairly easily. However, after a good deal of rumination, it seemed an especially difficult undertaking, given all the phenomenal rifles out there that have influenced current development. But, following a fair amount of research and thought, here's the list I've put together.

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  1. Very informative article. I would add the Swiss Vetterli M1871 which was bolt action with a tabular magazine and was issued to the Swiss Army in 1871, several years before the Lebel. Also the Swiss Schmidt Reuben M1889 straight pull with a removable box magazine and a powerful 7.5x55mm spitzer bullet which was issued to the Swiss Army in 1889 and was more durable and reliable then the later straight pulls you mention. The SR design was improved and the last models were the K31 and the K55 sniper.

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