History of the Rifle

History of the RifleThe history of the rifle is a long one, but the term rifle was originally applied to the grooving inside a barrel with the first examples being referred to as “rifled guns” or “rifled muzzleloaders”. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “Rifle: a gun that has a long barrel and is held against the shoulder when you shoot it, or to cut spiral grooves into the bore of.” It is also possibly from the French term, rifler, which is to scratch or file.

Rifling in itself is not specific to shoulder fired guns, as cannons had been rifled as early as 1664, and examples used in 1776 by the British. There are common features which separate cannons from rifles; a stock, barrel and trigger/ignition mechanism. There are variations on these three features as technology progressed and, for many years, early rifles shared characteristics of their non-rifled contemporaries such as muskets and shotguns. It’s hard to talk about rifles without also talking about ammunition. In the history of the rifle technological evolution and innovation have affected each other. I will cover a few specific examples of both firearms and ammunition that shaped what became a modern rifle.

History of the Rifle Stock

The first step in the history of the rifle was the stock. A stock is the part of the gun placed against the shoulder to facilitate aiming and recoil management. This can be made of wood, plastic or metal depending on the manufacturer and time period. It is oftenArbequest a permanent part of the assembly that holds the mechanical working parts of the rifle. Folding, collapsible or attachable versions have also been developed.  A stock is not exclusive to a rifle, as machine guns, shotguns, submachine guns and even pistols have had them through the years. The term stock dated to 1571 is derived from the Germanic word stoc, meaning tree trunk, referring to the wooden nature of the gunstock.

Hand CannonThe first hand cannons simply had a wooden pole attached to the breech end to provide a handle. They could not be aimed and fired by one man effectively. The Arbuequest, a matchlock with a long barrel, was the first appearance of a stock that could be braced against the shoulder and held with two hands. This was due to the innovation of the slow burning match, which allowed one man to light the fuse, brace the gun and sight down its barrel.

History of the Rifle Barrel

The most distinct feature that makes a rifle is the way its barrel works. Helical grooves are formed in the barrel, which impart a spin to a projectile along its axis. Machining or forging created these grooves.  The spin creates gyroscopic stability, which improves the aerodynamic properties and therefore accuracy. Invented in Germany in the 15th century, rifling was first polygonal and shaped in a spiral pattern. This created hills and valleys and created a spin on the projectile. This was replaced for a time by conventional rifling where deep groves are cut into the barrel, which also created spin and increased accuracy. The soft metal of the projectile would deform into the rifling and start the spin, and in some cases fins or ribs where added to the ball to fit into the rifles grooves. Polygonal rifling has come back into common use today in many handguns by CZ, H&K and Glock, with claims that it provides longer service life and has higher velocities.

   Conventional      history of the rifle      Polygonal

Smooth bore muskets do not have rifling. The spherical projectile was smaller in diameter than the barrel, and the projectile would bounce against the sides creating instability. One of the first adaptations of the musket was the Kentucky rifle, in the early 1700s. German immigrants created long barreled rifled muzzleloaders. The smaller diameter barrel and tight fitting lead ball made it more accurate, but it was slower to load. It was the slower reload time of the rifled guns that made them less desirable as a military firearm at the time.


In the history of the rifle it was the introduction of the “Minie” Ball in 1840 that allowed rifled muskets to replaced smoothbore muskets as the primary military firearm. The Minie was a conical projectile that would expand and deform. This would create friction and engage the rifling. For the most part the longer the barrel the more spin and more accuracy one would have. However, barrel length had little to do with the definition of a rifle. Until the 19th century there was little standardization of barrel length. The Brown Bess musket the British army carried had a barrel length of 42 inches, while cavalry units would have short-barreled guns ranging from 24 to 32 inches. In the 20th century, a barrel length of about 20 inches sets the difference between rifles and carbines. A carbine is simply a smaller length rifle.

Powder Fired Rifles

The way the powder was ignited has changed the efficiency and ammunition capacity of rifles.

First, fulminate of mercury, then potassium chlorate and now lead styphnate is used for propellant. The ignition of the powder, or deflagration, creates expanding gas pushing the bullet out of the barrel. The first simple hand cannons simply had a hole in the barrel to insert a fuse and ignite the powder. This was followed by matchlocks, which used a slow burning match and a small pan holding powder. Flint and wheel lock guns followed in the 15 and 1600’s, which were of similar design and function. These early firearms had to be cocked and caught by the sear, which holds the hammer back, before each shot. In 1610 Marin le Bourgeois developed the flintlock rifle. The trigger releases a spring-loaded mechanism that causes a flint to strike a steel surface; the ensuing spark ignites gunpowder and propels a spherical bullet.

In 1825 Reverend John Forsyth invented the percussion cap. The significance of this is the percussion cap made rifles reliable in inclement weather by enclosing the ignition system.

In 1836, Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse created a needle gun that would become a staple of the Prussian army. Dreyse’s breech-loading rifle relied on cartridges that included a black-powder charge, a percussion cap and a bullet wrapped in paper. While not a muzzleloader, Dreyse’s design of the entire firing mechanism in a straight line is thought to have led to the development of the inline muzzleloader and the bolt-action rifle. It also leads to the development of cartridge ammunition.

The first pin fire cartridge was created in 1840 and was followed by both rim fire cartridges (1859) and center fire (1869). The advent of cartridges fundamentally changed the way rifles we loaded and paved the road for multiple capacity, repeating firearms. Pulling the trigger allows the hammer or striker to fly forward, striking the firing pin, which then strikes the primer, igniting an impact-sensitive chemical compound which shoots a flame through the “flash hole” into the cartridge’s propellant chamber, igniting the propellant.

Magazine Fed Rifles

In 1860 the Spencer repeating rifle was the first adoption of a removable magazine fed infantry rifle. The Spencer used rim fire metallic cartridges in a tubular magazine.

Magazine Fed RiflesIn 1884 Paul Vieille invented a smokeless powder that gave off almost no smoke and was three times more powerful than black powder. Cartridges became smaller and lighter, and led to the development of magazine fed rifles such as the Lebel Model 1886.

The Lee-Metford was a bolt action. 303 Caliber bolt action, box magazine rifle created in 1884. This was the predecessor of the famous WWI and WWII rifles such as the Lee- Enfield and Mauser. Many of the rifles of this period used a striper clip to load the magazine.

Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher unveils the model 85 semi automatic rifle in 1885. Semi Automatic RifleIntroducing the recoil operated action. It is accepted that the model 85 inspired the M1 Garand, and his 1900 short stroke piston inspired the M1 Carbine.

A fundamental change in the employment and role of rifles quickly developed during and after WWII. Many countries developed intermediate cartridges, bridging the gap between pistol and heavy rifle rounds. It was believed that the standard. 30-06 round was too powerful for average engagement distances. The US Army for instance, had staunch opposition to issuing the semi automatic M1 as they believed its higher rate of fire would lead to wasted ammunition. During Operation Barbossa, the German invasion of Russia in 1941, the Mag Fed RifleRussians had already equipped many units with STV-38, STV-40 and PPSh-41 submachine guns. The high volume of fire over that of the German units caused the Germans to reconsider their doctrine and increase production of semi automatic and select fire guns.  Select fire guns using a rifle cartridge are seen as far back as 1890 with the gas operated Cei-Rigotti, and the short recoil Fedorov Avtomat in 1915. In the history of the rifle the first accepted “assault rifle” was the German Sturmgewhr 44. Sometimes known as the MP 43/44, this rifle set the stage for today’s modern systems such as the AR-15 and the AK-47. Two of the most prolific and controversial weapon systems ever created.

Even today new designs like the British SA-80 and Steyr AUG which use a “bullpup” design make us rethink of what we consider a rifle. Into the 21st century, innovations will again change how we define rifles, such as caseless amunition, smart optics and better metallurgy. The U.S. Army’s experimental XM 25 crosses the line between a grenade launcher and a rifle.  The questions of what the next steps will be and how will we classify what a rifle is, are to be determined.

First published on Aegis Academy

Posted by Aegis Academy Staff.


Gun Safety Rules and a Few Tips!

Gun Safety Rules and a Few TipsFirearms are excellent tools for both personal defense and recreation. Having a good working knowledge of gun safety rules is an part of being proficient. Unfortunately, many web sites and Internet forums default to “humorous” safety tips and rules or worse, things that are simply unsafe. Here are a few gun safety rules and tips to think about as a responsible gun owner. Before we talk about tips you need to know and understand the Four Universal Safety Rules. There are variations on the theme, but Jeff Cooper is generally credited with distilling these down to the key elements to creating a safe gun owner. These apply to any firearm.

Gun Safety Rules

1. Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

Do not ever do anything with an unloaded gun you would not do with a loaded one.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

The bullet will go in the direction the gun is pointed. If you do not have a reason to point a gun at something – Don’t

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

Guns do not shoot themselves. If your finger is not on the trigger modern firearms will not discharge.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Not just beyond it, but around it as well. Bullets do not stop simply because you didn’t hit what you aimed at.

Notice, I did not mention safeties. Much of the military teaches keep your weapon on safe until you intend to fire. Many modern handguns do not have external safeties. They are all mechanical devices – and like all mechanical devices, they have a failure rate. If you adhere to the four core safety rules, you make a mechanical safety irrelevant.

When using a firearm that has mechanical safety, use it in addition to the four gun safety rules – but don’t rely on it to keep you safe.

Gun Safety Tips:

Gun Safety Tip # 1 – Keep your weapon maintained.

Proper cleaning of a weapon means it shouldl function as designed. Read the owner’s manual and what the manufacturer recommends as far as cleaning products, schedule and procedures. Some guns need more cleaning than others and some ammunition can create more residues. Keep the gun properly lubricated as well. Malfunctions due to improper maintenance, bad ammo or worn parts can contribute to safety problems with a gun.

Gun Safety Tip # 2 – Use the proper ammunition.

Most factory-produced ammunition is adequate for your training purposes. Reloaded ammunition is also an option, but consider the source and reputation of the product. Unlike factory ammo, there are no standard testing or safety criteria for home re-loads. Improper powder loads, bad crimping, and unchecked measurements can lead to poor round performance, squibs and worse.

If you are looking at cost savings as a factor, remanufactured ammunition from a reputable dealer is a safe bet. I recommend making and using your own reloads over a strangers. Again read your owners manual, some manufactures do not recommend +p ammunition and warn that it will increase wear. This may be an important consideration in gun selection and training, especially when considering a defensive carry gun. We don’t recommend your personal ++P home brew for defensive carry as it is a liability nightmare to shoot someone with your own hopped up ammo. From a safety perspective, a catastrophic malfunction from bad ammunition can cause serious injury to both the shooter and others.

Gun Safety Tip #3 – Train properly, develop safe habits

Building proper habits and proficiency is the hallmark of a responsible shooter and gun owner. You must create an environment where gun safety is a habit, not an after thought or decision. Placing your finger on the trigger is a decision. Maintaining muzzle awareness, trigger discipline and situational awareness consistently can only be done with proper practice and realistic training goals. Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent.

If you build improper habits, you will do improper procedures. It stops being fun when a preventable accident occurs. You are the one responsible for gun safety. Familiarity can breed contempt, and I have seen more than a few professionals, military and other wise, do stupid things with guns. Why? Because they take it for granted. Teach your friends and family the good habits you have learned and only train at ranges that promote gun safety.

Load and unload your gun the same way, in the same sequence every time. Do it the point where you can’t get it wrong and build the habit of a thorough inspection of the chamber and magazines well in to the process. That one habit alone would prevent a number of negligent discharges from occurring.

Gun Safety Tip #4 – Store your gun properly

Once you own a gun, you are responsible for gun safety. Period. A gun will not fire by itself, but an improperly stored gun is unacceptable. In some states it is a crime, but it is a moral responsibility of every gun owner to protect their gun from thieves and keep it out of the hands of children. In 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control, there were 62 unintentional gun deaths for children under the age of 14, and 667 nonfatal injuries. Twenty-eight states have laws requiring safe storage, but the implications of a child or criminal obtaining your firearm due to negligence is the owner’s fault.

Understand and be in compliance with the law in your state, but if your state has no guidelines, here are few thoughts. A gun should be under your control or stored properly at all times. Teach your family the rules of gun safety. Children are curious and will find ways to get where they are not supposed. Take away the curiosity, then teach them to respect it – and make sure your guns are secure. Look into programs like the Eddie Eagle program from the NRA for young children and read Teaching Kids to Shoot for more information.

Gun Safety Tip #5 – Wear proper protective equipment

Proper eye and ear protection will save you a lot of pain and suffering later. Ranges should require them to be worn and often provide protection for you. Gunshots can range from 140 to 180 decibels, and levels at which damage to your hearing can occur. Eye protection will prevent brass, particles or lubrication from damaging your eyes. It is particularly important when you are shooting at steel targets where fragmentation of the copper jacket of the bullet can bounce back. Rarely does this break skin, but your eyes are a different story.

Hats with a brim are helpful for both sun protection and the stray piece of hot brass. I do not recommend wearing sandals on the range. Hot brass tends to find the space between your toes as a nice place to land. Long sleeve shirts and pants are a good choice. Gloves can be worn when you’re shooting, especially if you expect to be wearing them when you have to use your firearm – like in the winter. Practice for the conditions you expect to experience.

Practicing gun safety is the responsibility of anyone handling or owning a firearm. Gun Safety should be thought of and practiced continuously. You can never be too familiar or proficient at it. Using tips like these can help you and your family be responsible gun owners.

First published on Aegis academy

Posted by Aegis Academy Staff.

Benelli Super-90 Shotgun Review

Benelli Super-90 Shotgun ReviewAegis Academy members and readers, I did a review of the Remington 870 12 gauge tactical shotgun, but the question always comes up, what about the semi-auto shotguns? We have now done the same for the Benelli Super-90 semi-auto 12 gauge. For starters, it’s very hard to make a true side-by-side comparison of the 870 pump gun and Super-90 semi-auto. Simply because the Benelli can be more than three times the cost of the Remington, depending on which model you chose. The retail price is just one part of the review. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of one of the best high-end auto loaders.

As the name implies, the Benelli Super-90 is a semi-auto shotgun and has a lot of particular features that set it apart from many other semi-autos. First and foremost, the Benelli Super-90 comes in numerous different models. Each of which has some very distinguishing differences. The M-1 is the basic model with an 18.5 inch barrel, standard butt-stock and castle-type pistol sights. The M-2 has the same barrel length with a pistol grip butt-stock, ghost-ring sights plus the receiver is drilled and tapped for a picatinny rail. The M-3 has an 18.5 inch barrel, pistol grip butt-stock, ghost-ring sights and the rail system is factory installed. The M-3 can also function as a semi-auto and/or a pump gun with a twist of the control collar located at the front of the fore-grip. The M-4 is the high end model with a pistol grip, collapsible butt-stock, 18.5 inch barrel, ghost-ring sights and rail system. This is the model that the USMC and other military units have purchased to replace various other 12 gauge shotguns. Depending on where you live and which model you want, retail cost can be anywhere from $1200 to $1800, quite a lot of money for any shotgun.

All of the Benelli Super-90 models come with the patented Benelli “inertia recoil system”. This system uses the majority of the gas pressure to cycle the weapon so the shooter feels less actual recoil compared with a 12 gauge pump gun. All the Benelli Super-90 models come with an aluminum alloy receiver and synthetic butt-stock and fore-grip which make them very light weight and easy to manipulate. The light weight coupled with the recoil system makes the Benelli Super-90 the preferred shotgun for 3-gun matches that are very popular with sport shooters across the country. Go to any 3-gun competition in your local area and more than 75% of the shotguns being used are some variant of a Benelli Super-90. You will also see a variety of the latest electronic red-dot systems and illuminated high-visibility front posts as well as numerous other high-end modifications. These include, extended bolt handles and bolt releases, oversize safeties, high capacity magazine tubes and beveled loading ports. None of the above modifications, other than the high capacity magazine tube, would I call a tactical necessity.

The Length of Pull can be measured and changed to suit almost any size shooter just by changing the thickness of the recoil pad on the butt-stock. You can also order your Benelli Super-90 with any of the normal length smooth-bore or rifled slug barrels. Another popular tactical accessory is a light system, which replaces the standard fore-grip with an integral light mount fore-grip and pressure pad switch. However, any standard or aftermarket accessory that fits on the Benelli Super-90 will be relatively expensive.

When it comes to actual shooting and manipulating of the weapon there some real tactical disadvantages to any semi auto shotgun, Benelli Super-90 included. The type of ammunition and maintenance of the weapon drive the reliability of all semi-auto shotguns. Benelli Super-90s thrive on high quality ammo such as 2-3/4”/3” buckshot and slugs plus proper care and cleaning. Without both, they can be become very manipulation/training intensive during a malfunction. Depending on the malfunction, an average shooter can clear a pump gun faster and with less drama than a semi-auto. A pump gun will also be easier to change ammunition on the fly (slug select) and run better on lower quality ammunition with less maintenance due to the manual pump action.

With all that being stated, a high capacity magazine tube and light system are all you need to make your Benelli a great multipurpose home defense weapon. With the accessory light system and magazine tube extension, you could have more than $2000 invested in one weapon. For less money, you could purchase the Remington 870 12 gauge Tactical with a light system and a Sig-Sauer pistol and have cash left over for training and home defense ammunition. If you’re not going to be a 3-gun competitor anytime soon the decision seems very easy to make.

You can find more gun reviews from the Aegis Academy staff here.

Article first published on Aegis Academy

About Author

– Chris White

Range Master

Chris White, Firearms TrainingChris White is 20-year veteran of the United States Navy (SEAL Teams) where he retired as a Chief (SO7). He has multiple combat tours and was assigned to three different SEAL teams as well as Naval Special Warfare Development Group during his active duty service. His key billets include: Assault Team leader, Platoon Chief and Platoon LPO at Development Group. He spent 6 years in instructor and training assignments during his career. Since his retirement, he has worked as an instructor and contracted operator at numerous high threat security providers in the Middle East and Africa. He continues to deploy in support of contingency operations and high threat protective details spending approximately 120 days a year overseas. He holds an extensive list of Department of Defense and Special Operations Command certifications and qualifications.

Smart Gun Technologies

Smart Gun TechnologiesAs technology continues to advance, we have seen it impact the shooting community. From better quality optics, to improved material solutions and better manufacturing processes, guns have become more accurate, more reliable and generally cheaper than they were even ten years ago. If you take a look at the Tracking Point riflescope, you will see accuracy rates that are simply impossible to achieve with out using the technology – if you can afford one… Every one is talking about the advent of Smart or owner authorized guns. The question is what can a personalized gun or smart gun technology do for us?

There are number of projects under development to achieve the goal or making a reliable owner authorized gun. This is not the first time we have pursued this. The simplest design was a key lock, which was developed for some rifles in the 1950’s that made them inoperable without the key inserted into the stock. Since the 50’s, we have come a long way, and what is generally envisioned by current advocates of smart gun technology is a finger or palm print identification panel on the grips of firearms that would recognize the owner.

Smart gun technologies potential impact on crime and violence

Proponents of smart gun technology claim it will massively reduce crime and accidents. Opponents claim that it is unreliable, will not stop crime and consider it the anti-gun advocates marketing panacea for eliminating law-abiding citizens right to defend themselves. As usual, both sides of the argument have developed a set of statics and arguments to support their claims – and neither one is really falsifying numbers and yet they manage to come to completely opposite conclusions. Lets start with a quick review of the realistic numbers that smart gun technology may influence.

According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 500 youths commit suicide with a firearm each year. Roughly another 275 are killed in accidents involving firearms. These are the poster children for the anti-gun lobby and are used to promulgate the emotion-based argument that “guns are killing our kids.” Smart gun technology could prevent a number of these deaths from occurring (or would remove the firearm from the suicide equation) if the technology was adopted in large scale. Were this to occur it would remove a key rallying point from the anti gun lobby’s argument and is worth exploration of the possibility from that standpoint alone. The unfortunate reality is that these few occurrences do not make a remotely significant impact on the total problem.

There are about 105,000 firearms related injuries and deaths each year in the United States. The ATF estimates about 85% of the guns used in crimes are stolen or illegally transferred. The population of injuries and deaths we are attempting to prevent by stopping criminals from being able to use guns through smart gun technology is about 90,000.

The number of guns that are “stolen” in the traditional sense make up approximately 12.5% of the guns used in crime according to the ATF. Typically it is illegal transfers that make up the rest. The guns are legally purchased, and then illegally transferred or simply sold by Federal Firearms Dealers to criminals the dealers know to be ineligible. According to the ATF, 85% of “illegal” guns on the street can be sourced to 8% of the firearms dealers in the country. Smart gun technology will do nothing to stop the 8%, and unless we are to create a centralized registry and firearms authorized user control center – they will have the ability to “authorize” guns. That leaves us with about 11,000 injuries and homicides that may be prevented if we could develop the technology to a functional level or about 10% of the problem.

From a morbidity perspective, another argument is that many gun owners are likely to have their firearms used against them in a crime. The developers of smart gun technology claim it could eliminate this risk as well. The reality of that portion of the statistics is that most (more than 90%) of the guns used on their owners are cases of domestic violence. In many cases, family members would choose to authorize both adult inhabitants of the house to use the firearm, negating any real reduction. Regardless, it could eliminate the very a small percentage of cases in which a criminal takes a gun from a law-abiding citizen and uses it against them.

Based on the above cocktail napkin calculations, smart gun technology will at best impact less than 10% of the total problem, and only if we could somehow remove all the “dumb” guns from the equation. That seems a highly unlikely scenario.

Smart Gun Technology and Reliability

If you are a responsible gun owner, you lock your guns up when they are not under your physical control. Regardless of how you secure your firearms, there is an impact on accessibility that smart gun technology could provide. It would eliminate the need for safes. If smart gun technology becomes as reliable as the manufactures want to claim that it will be, you’ll be able to safely lend your loaded firearm to your 5 year old to play Cowboys and Indians in the backyard. Leave it laying anywhere you want around the house, and most importantly it will eliminate the trade off between accessibility security.

California Senate Bill 293, scheduled for committee later this year, would require all firearms in the state to have an “Owner Authorized” technology within two years after the 2nd firearm that met the criteria was added to the “not unsafe” firearms list. The Armatix iP1 supposedly meets the standard, has been added to the list and is for sale in California at only $1,399. In order to activate it, you will need the $399 accompanying wrist watch with the RFID code to activate the gun.

The wrist-watch RFID link concept has been around since the 90’s. This particular model was developed in Germany. There are number of options on similar concepts from rings to necklaces. There are a number of problems with the concept. First, I am now relying on two electronic devices to work perfectly when I need them to, in addition to the firearm itself. There is not way these additional links will enhance reliability. Second, if I’m in a violent encounter and my watch is broken, my gun is useless when I need it most. Of course, loss or theft of the RFID device is another potential problem that makes the firearm useless. Lastly, if the are stolen together, we have negated any potential impact on crime that the technology is supposed to stop. I would put the concept of watch activated, or any other external RFID device, squarely in the bad idea category.

The future….

The finger/palm print recognition smart gun technology is what really shows promise – at least in concept. We have yet to see one that is reliable enough in a grip-mounted form, and light enough to be functional. There are some prototypes being developed that may soon function. We would eliminate the trade off between security of our firearms and accessibility. Unfortunately, smart gun technology has not produced that firearm – yet. Until they do, I have to keep my guns in my safe or on my person – like every other responsible gun owner out there.

When Smart Gun Technology has reached an acceptable level of reliability and functionality, you will know. Gun owners will not have to be mandated to purchase them, they will line up in droves to purchase them. The concept is great and if we can get it to work, I sincerely doubt that existing “dumb” guns will retain any real market value beyond historical pieces. We are nowhere near that point yet and the anti-gun lobby is attempting to legislate new restrictions under the guise of a positive impact on public safety. Unfortunately, that positive impact simply does not exist.

Have fun & Stay Safe this week!

First Published at Aegis Academy

About Author

– Patrick Henry


Patrick HenryPatrick Henry received his operational training and experience from the U. S. Government, 22 years of which were spent in the Marine Corps where he served in the Reconnaissance, Infantry and Intelligence fields. During his active service, he spent more then seven years deployed overseas in combat, operational and training assignments. After the military, Pat worked as a contractor and as the Director of Operations at a private paramilitary company, specializing in training special operations forces and providing protective services to select private clients. His education consists of an MBA from the University of Southern California (USC), and a BS from San Diego State University with an emphasis in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in Psychology. He holds an extensive list of security and training related certifications from a variety of government and nationally recognized entities. He has an extensive entrepreneurial background ranging from real estate and technology, to the security training and education market. He currently sits on the advisory committee at USC’s Master of Veterans Business Program, and is an active member of Infraguard and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). He has been a guest speaker at ASIS, the San Diego Industrial Security Awareness Council and other private organizations on physical security, travel security, and competitive intelligence collection counter-measures.

Internal Ballistics Part II – Mechanical Precision

Internal Ballistics – Part II – Mechanical Precision

internal ballistics, Howard Hall, Aegis Academy, Gun Training, Firearms TrainingWelcome back! Thank you for your interest in ballistics. So far, we’ve covered a broad overview of the different types of ballistics, weapon function, and the cycle of operations. (Ballistics – Making Every Shot Count; Internal Ballistics Part I – Cycle of Operation and Firearm Function) This month, I will continue to cover internal ballistics. Defined as the combination of actions and reactions within a firearm as they affect a projectile’s movement to the end of the barrel and ultimately affect a bullet’s flight to target. With volumes of information available, I’ve chosen to focus this month’s column only on the mechanical aspects of the firearm and will cover ammunition details next month.

When I first started shooting bulls-eye competitions, I was next to a shooter using a 1911 with a six-inch barrel. In my naiveté, I asked him what was the benefit of his 6” 1911 compared to my standard 5” 1911? He humorously replied… “I’m an inch closer to the target than you are!” There is a lot more to accuracy and precision than barrel length alone.

Precision vs. Accuracy

accuracy precision, internal ballistics, Howard Hall, Aegis Academy, Gun Training, Firearms TrainingAnyone who has shot a wide variety of firearms has probably noticed some just seem “more accurate” than others. While the concept is sound, the nomenclature is a bit misleading. To be clear, it requires both accuracy and precision to consistently place shots within the desired area of a target. The term “precision” refers to the mechanical qualities of a firearm that combine to consistently place projectiles in a small group on target. “Accuracy,” on the other hand, refers to the shooter’s ability to harness the firearm’s intrinsic precision and place a tight group of shots in the desired portion of the target. The shooter alone controls accuracy through refined technique, stance, gun fit, grip, sight alignment, sight picture and follow-through. This article will focus on mechanical precision.

Firearm precision is simply a matter of mechanical repeatability. By this, I mean the mechanical components of the firearm must interact in a controlled and consistent manner to launch the projectile exactly the same way. If these mechanical components do not interact in a consistent manner, the net result may negate all other factors, thus sending projectiles outside of the desired area within the target. For example, a shooter may have selected the correct ammunition matched to the weapon and exercised a highly refined shooting technique, only to find the point of impact on target is inconsistent. No combination of applied shooting principles can overcome a lack of mechanical precision.

Firearm Construction

Tolerance is a key contributor to firearm precision. It is defined as the dimensional relationship between moving mechanical parts, or how well the different firearm components fit together. While it is obvious the moving parts within a firearm require enough clearance to perform their functions, excessive gaps can cause inconsistent alignment and reduce precision. Mass produced firearms tend to cost less due to the manufacturer’s ability to fabricate thousands of interchangeable parts in a single run to construct their firearms. In general, these firearms tend to be inherently “more” functional but “less” precise due to the lower tolerance engineered into each component. Note that the terms “more” and “less” are generalizations and vary among manufacturers. Conversely, firearms built with high tolerances and hand-fit components seem “tighter” and result in a lower manufacturing volume, higher cost and greater maintenance requirements to ensure reliable function.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to shoot an old 1911 may have noticed they “rattle” when you shake them… yet they are still VERY accurate. The rattling sound is typically the physical contact between the slide and the frame where there is a low tolerance due to high volume production and the need for consistent function. However, this unique pistol remains accurate due to a higher tolerance where it is most needed. The area where the rear of the barrel locks into the slide and the front of the barrel is secured by the barrel bushing.

Each shooter must decide their own threshold of precision, cost, and reliable function in their firearm selection. Below, I will describe a few other key characteristics of firearm construction as they relate to both precision and function.

Headspace: As the cartridge is stripped from the magazine or manually inserted and the firearm chambers and locks, headspace is defined as any measurable gap between the cartridge base and the bolt face, breech or receiver. Excessive headspace allows the cartridge to “move” in relation to the bolt, breech face or receiver and produce inconsistent ignition or allow expanding gasses to escape. This influences the travel of the projectile into the bore. Extractor quality, shape, construction, and tension play a key role in reducing headspace. Heavily used guns can also experience erosion on the face of the bolt, breech or receiver. In any case, improper headspace degrades both precision and function.

internal ballistics, Howard Hall, Aegis Academy, Gun Training, Firearms TrainingFreebore: This is the distance between the foremost portion of the exterior diameter of the projectile and the beginning of the rifling. Upon initial gas expansion, this is the distance a projectile must travel before engaging the rifling. Testing has shown that precision is increased when a chambered and locked cartridge presses the projectile against the rifling. However, this is not feasible for most semi-automatic weapons due to the maximum cartridge length afforded by the internal dimension of magazine. Precision rifle shooters who load their own ammunition for maximum precision tend to gauge the freebore and maximize the overall length of the cartridge to set the projectile against the rifling. For this discussion, we need to realize that “shorter” cartridges with excessive freebore can shear portions of a bullet jacket as it slams into the rifling, which will significantly affect its external ballistics.

Barrel length: Each shooter must select a firearm with a barrel length that suits their individual needs. Shorter barrels benefit those who desire lighter and more concealable firearms. Longer barrels tend to benefit shooters who don’t mind the added weight and are interested in greater precision and accuracy. Longer barrels inherently present a longer sight radius, which improves accuracy. Concurrently, increased precision is also produced by the greater duration from which the barrel influences the travel of the projectile before it is released into the atmosphere. Longer barrels also provide a greater initial velocity due to the duration of the powder burn, gas expansion, and pressure build-up.

internal ballistics, Howard Hall, Aegis Academy, Gun Training, Firearms TrainingBarrel Twist: Rifling in a firearm barrel is a series of helical grooves that rotate a projectile along its longitudinal axis as it travels along the barrel. This produces the gyroscopic stability required for the projectile to consistently travel to the target. Twist can be measured by pulling a cleaning rod with a cloth patch through the barrel from the chamber to the crown. Allowing the cleaning rod to spin freely, the number of complete rotations it makes in one inch is the ratio of twist. If the cleaning rod makes one complete turn in 7 inches, it is considered a 1:7 twist. Please see Chris White’s excellent article on matching ammunition to barrels for more explanation: Barrel Twist and Bullet Weight

Barrel Effects: While shooting a firearm, the most noticeable effects are impulse (the bang) and the subsequent recoil in conjunction with the movement of the slide or bolt. However, few shooters realize there is a tremendous amount of activity within the barrel itself. The rapid gas expansion that creates pressure to propel a projectile down the bore causes the barrel to expand. Concurrently, the rifling that forces the projectile to spin as it proceeds down the bore also creates a torque in the opposite direction, causing the barrel to “twist” in the opposite direction of the rifling. Meanwhile, the impulse and rapid gas expansion that sends the projectile forward also causes the barrel to vibrate and literally whip. Picture yourself holding the end of a taught rope, quickly moving the end in your hand, and watching the wave move down the rope. With all these forces acting on the barrel as the projectile moves forward, mechanical precision can only be attained if the projectile exits the moving barrel at the exact same time in its movement. The amount of barrel movement is affected by the quality of the barrel construction material, barrel thickness and the points of contact with the barrel (in rifles, this is considered bedding or free floating to ensure there is limited contact with the stock). In general, lighter and thinner barrels are more affected by expansion, twist, vibration and whip. Conversely, heavier and thicker barrels are less affected and enhance precision.

barrelcrowns, internal ballistics, Howard Hall, Aegis Academy, Gun Training, Firearms TrainingBarrel Crown: While there are many forces exerted on the projectile as it travels down the barrel, the very last influence occurs as the projectile makes its very last contact with the barrel. The shape of the barrel crown will determine this last influence as the projectile enters the atmosphere and residual gas expansion makes its last push against the base of the projectile. If the crown is machined in an uneven manner or if there is some damage to the crown, the last “gas push” will be unevenly distributed on the projectile causing unwanted yaw that will send it away from the intended area of the target. Often, the barrel crown is recessed with ample material on the outer part of the barrel protecting the inner bore where the crown resides. Even if the barrel crown is not damaged by misuse or impact, heavy use combined with a lack of cleaning can erode the surface of the crown and cause an uneven gas expansion that leads to a lack of precision.

internal ballistics, Howard Hall, Aegis Academy, Gun Training, Firearms TrainingWe’ve only scratched the surface on this topic. I’ve only selected some topics I believe to be the most compelling and interesting to our shooters. If you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of internal ballistics, I very highly recommend Robert A. Rinker’s book “Understanding Firearm Ballistics.” He provides a straight-forward no-nonsense approach that appeals to shooters looking for easy to understand concepts as well as advanced mathematics and physics principles. Find more information on Rinker’s book here.

Stay safe and shoot straight!

First Published at Aegis Academy

About Author

– Howard Hall

Range Master

Howard HallHoward has served for nearly 20 years in the Marine Corps. He has served as a Platoon Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Executive Officer, Regimental Operations Officer, and Battalion Commander. He has multiple combat tours to include serving as a military transition team member in Fallujah. He is an NRA Certified handgun instructor and holds numerous Marine Corps training credentials. An active competitor in action pistol (United States Practical Shooting Association), long range rifle (NRA F-Class), and shotgun (Amateur Trapshooting Association, National Skeet Shooting Association), howard has earned numerous accolades and medaled during DoD competitions with the 1911 platform in bulls-eye shooting.

Micro Stamping and the Future of Guns in California

Future of Guns in CaliforniaI’ve received a number of questions, comments and some general paranoia over micro stamping and the planned withdraw of Smith and Wesson and Ruger from the California handgun market.

In 2007, California passed a law requiring all handguns sold in the state to adopt micro stamping technology. It is set to go into effect in May 2014. The intent of the law is similar to a number of laws on the books in California. It is designed to discourage manufacturers from shipping guns to California by enacting costly barriers to entry. While this seems like a potentially effective means of attacking the so called “problem,” similar laws have had the opposite impact on the volume of firearms sold in the state. What these types of laws have done is reduce the choices available to law abiding citizens, but increased total sales of guns.

Lets take the “Not unsafe” handgun act as an example. Any pistol model sold in California must pass what is called the California firing and safety test. The manufacturer must submit three guns to a state approved lab for testing. They fire 600 rounds and drop them six times. If they meet the state mandated malfunction rate and do not fire when dropped, the gun is subsequently deemed “not unsafe” and added to the “not unsafe list of firearms approved for sale in the state.”  (Yes they use the term not unsafe in the Peoples Republic of California, lest the state publicly make the statement that any firearm – under any circumstances – could be considered safe). Regardless of the result of the test, the gun is then destroyed. The manufacturer must pay a testing fee of about $2000 plus ammunition, plus $200 per model to be added to the list, plus shipping, etc… Call it $7500 per model to be listed on “not unsafe handgun” list. Now we can potentially add the Micro stamping requirement to that cost.

Firearms Retailer Survey ReportWhat this has resulted in is making it financially imprudent to ship a wide variety of models to California as each specific element of a model must be tested. Change the grips, new test. Put a different front sight on the gun, new test. When we look at gun sales and revenue in the state (Published by NSSF), we see California sales volumes continue to increase, but we see the available models decrease – although I have not seen the 2013 report yet.  The purported goal of these laws is to reduce the number of guns in society. What actually occurs is a run on guns that raises prices and increases the profitability of the California market (and increases tax revenue for the state). The increased pricing gives manufacturers a profit incentive to find innovative ways to beat the restrictions – and they do. Sales increase, profits increase and the cycle continues… (You can also get an estimate jobs created, and a number of economic trends on the firearm industry from these reports.) Barack Obama may be the best gun salesman in the world, but Californians continues to support these ignorant and ineffective laws by electing the like of Kevin DeLeon,  (you can watch him prove he knows absolutely nothing about firearms on national TV in the link). He, Feinstein and Yee are ultimately driving sales here in California!

Kevin Deleon Anti gun senator gun trainingThe next element of the equation is the lawsuit filed by the NSSF against the state of California for violating the 2nd amendment rights of Californians via this micro stamping law. That, like many other suits which have been filed will take years, but the requested injunction is well written (in my amateur opinion). It clearly asks the court to consider, if not hold, California liable for all firearms injuries caused by the impact of forcing Californians to forgo modern safety features and advancements were this act to be enforced. Due to the volume of research provided to the court, my suspicion is that they will at least grant an injunction against enforcement of the law until more studies have been – meaning the status quo will be maintained.

In the interim, Smith and Wesson and Ruger Strum (and hopefully other manufactures) lose nothing by publicly making the statements they will not comply.

If the law is actually allowed to be enforced then the manufacturers will actually have to make a decision based on the profitability of the California market. Few, if any, will do what Barret did and stop selling to California Law Enforcement (which would be a way of getting the attention of the CA Sheriffs and Police Chiefs who supported this). More likely is a statement along the lines of “Due to the demand for our superior firearms in the state of California, we have decided to undergo the cost of retooling a limited number of assembly lines to meet this ridiculous restriction in order to ensure our valuable California customers are able to defend themselves inline their 2nd amendment rights. While it will be necessary to pass the increased cost of this retooling to the California purchasers, Company X will be donating $1.00 per gun sold to the cause of appealing this irrational and useless law…” or something to that effect.

No matter how this plays out, there will be an increased demand for a shrinking line of products, which will push more guns into the hands of citizens. The paranoia alone is probably already increasing sales.

Stay Safe and have fun this week!

First Published at Aegis academy


Patrick Henry


Patrick HenryPatrick Henry received his operational training and experience from the U. S. Government, 22 years of which were spent in the Marine Corps where he served in the Reconnaissance, Infantry and Intelligence fields. During his active service, he spent more then seven years deployed overseas in combat, operational and training assignments. After the military, Pat worked as a contractor and as the Director of Operations at a private paramilitary company, specializing in training special operations forces and providing protective services to select private clients. His education consists of an MBA from the University of Southern California (USC), and a BS from San Diego State University with an emphasis in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in Psychology. He holds an extensive list of security and training related certifications from a variety of government and nationally recognized entities. He has an extensive entrepreneurial background ranging from real estate and technology, to the security training and education market. He currently sits on the advisory committee at USC’s Master of Veterans Business Program, and is an active member of Infraguard and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). He has been a guest speaker at ASIS, the San Diego Industrial Security Awareness Council and other private organizations on physical security, travel security, and competitive intelligence collection counter-measures.