Savage Model 110 Bolt Action Rifle
Savage Model 110 Bolt Action Rifle. Copyright Russ Chastain

Definition: A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, which fires a single projectile (bullet) through a barrel which contains spiral grooves in its bore. (The bore is the hole through the middle of the barrel.) Along with shotguns, these are often called "long guns."

Rifles come in many shapes, sizes, and types. These days, the most common types are bolt action, lever action and semi-automatic, but rifles also come in slide-action (pump) and single-shot varieties.

The rifle gets its name from the spiral grooves in its bore, which is called rifling. When a bullet travels through these grooves, it gains spin. This spin helps stabilize the projectile in flight, adding to its accuracy and helping to prevent its tumbling in flight.

Rifles are extremely versatile, useful, and varied. Most big-game hunters prefer to use rifles, due to their greater accuracy and longer range when compared with shotguns. Small rimfire rifles have long been used to hunt small game, for informal target shooting known as plinking, and for competitive target shooting as well.

Rifles are also the mainstay of military forces around the world. The legendary Russian AK-47 rifle is perhaps the most widely-used and acclaimed military rifle in the world today, and many other rifles are in use by various fighting forces. No combat force would be complete without rifles.

Many experienced outdoorsmen, when asked which single gun they would choose to own if they couldn't afford any other, choose a small-bore rifle.

This alone testifies to the flexibility and usefulness of the rifle.

Pronunciation: ryf-ul

Also Known As: Long Gun, Carbine

Common Misspellings: rifel, riffle, riffel

Examples: The M16 rifle had a rocky start, but has become a well-respected tool in the hands of many citizens and soldiers.