Wednesday, August 27, 2008

American Rifleman “Top 10” Infantry Rifles

The September 2008 issue of American Rifleman includes a list of their “Top 10” Infantry Rifles and Hunting Rifles. I’ll be the first to admit, that while I hunt, I am not an expert on modern or historical hunting rifles - so I'll let someone else post that list and comment on it. I generally hunt with an infantry rifle (the rifle that, interestingly enough, ended up at number one on AR’s list). Any list like this automatically invites controversy, and they indicated the reasoning behind some of their omissions up front. Some were left off of the list because of limited service history. The M1 carbine was left off because it was deemed more of a “personal defense weapon” than infantry rifle. The Brown Bess was left off because it’s a smoothbore musket, not a rifle. Anyway their list – and my thoughts:

1. The U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 “Garand” – yeah, pretty much exactly where I’d put it. It’s a rifle that MacArthur and Patton agreed on. It’s the rifle that helped win World War II in both Europe and the Pacific for the allies. I hunt with an M1 Garand, and I’ve always appreciated its rugged simplicity, reliability, and accuracy.

2. The Avtomat Kalashnikov (AK-47) – yeah, pretty much where I’d put this one too. Simple, rugged, cheap, effective, easy to operate, and ideally suited to modern warfare. The most prolific firearm in the world.

3. Mauser 98 – They put the Mauser 98 here largely because it has formed the basis of so many other rifles, both military (the Springfield 1903) and civilian (most hunting rifles use a version of the Mauser action). Variants served through two world wars. I don’t know if I’d put it this high on a “Top 10” list, though.

4. The M16 – Fairly high ranking here, but honestly the M16 in all of its incarnations has served well as the main battle rifle of the West since the 70’s. The M16 still has numerous detractors based on experiences early in Vietnam, but given the modularity of the M16 / AR15 weapons system, it certainly deserves to be high on this list.

5. British Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle-Musket – Used by both sides in the Civil War, the first rifle to bring the concept of “interchangeable parts” to Europe, this one is a biggie, and it’s actually the first rifle on this list that I don’t own a copy of (granted my AK’s are all of the semi-automatic variety, as are my AR15’s).

6. Lee-Enfield – In both its No. 1 and No. 4 incarnations. Another solid rifle that served the British Empire through World War II and beyond.

7. StG44 – The first modern infantry rifle with select fire. Over 500,000 were made by the Germans in World War II (and don’t I wish I owned one!!!). Honestly I think this one should be a little higher on the list. This is the rifle that is the first in the breed that led to the AK-47, the M16, and all those that followed. It has all of the features of a modern infantry rifle – select fire, intermediate power cartridge, and easy to produce. It had more hitting power than the M2 Carbine or any sub-machine gun, and it was more accurate than the sub-machine guns. Truly a revolutionary rifle that made most country’s arsenals obsolete.

8. FN Fusil Automatique Leger (FAL) – Pretty much equipped the non-Soviet bloc world early in the cold war. Designed for the .308 NATO cartridge, this one at this point on the list may cause some controversy.

9. Dreyse Model 1841 “Needle Gun” – This rifle represented an evolutionary step between the hammer fired breech loader and the later bolt-action rifle. The basic cartridge design used on the Dreyse is still in use today, though brass quickly replaced paper in cartridges. It’s truly a revolutionary rifle that played a strong role in German unification (with later political and military consequences), but again, it may be a controversial choice.

10. The Henry Rifle – Only 14,000 copies of the Henry rifles were made, but the rifle did introduce several novel features – the 16 round tubular magazine, the .44 rimfire metallic cartridge, and one was, of course, presented to Abraham Lincoln. It’s a historically significant rifle, to be sure, but is it really a “Top 10” Infantry rifle??? I tend not to think so.

Check out the actual article for the full write- up and rationale behind the choices AR made for their article. There are several other rifles that didn’t make the list for one reason or another; feel free to post your comments!

Until next time!!!


Aruba 1st said...

Where's the Web Link for the "Top Ten" Hunting Rifles in the same issue ?

Fingolfen said...

When I put together the article I didn't have a web link for the hunting side... as I don't use hunting rifles myself, I didn't feel qualified to comment...