Friday, October 12, 2012

Rifles: Bolt Action

This is probably the most common style of rifle in the sporting world. They can be chambered in any caliber from .22 long rifle, to .50 BMG (Browning Machine Gun).

The most common use is in the role of hunting rifle. The Bolt in Bolt Action is a rotating cylinder that slides forward behind the loaded cartridge and is locked into place. A handle on the (shooter’s) right side of the rifle, just above the trigger is used to unlock the bolt and slide it back. This will eject the spent shell, cock the striker (they don’t have hammers) and open the chamber for the next round.

Most have an internal magazine with a four or five round capacity, but some do not. Still others may be modified to use a detachable box magazine, like an assault rifle. When the bolt is pushed forward, it picks up a new round from the magazine (if there is one) and inserts it into the chamber. At this point the rifle is ready to fire. Most have no way to de-cock the firing mechanism if there is a live round in the chamber. To de-cock them, you make sure it’s empty, or insert a dummy round made for the purpose, point it a safe direction, and pull the trigger. Obviously, this can lead to problems.

It also means that a bolt action rifle is one of the few guns that can actually go "Click" when it's empty. There's nothing to stop the bolt from being closed on an empty chamber.

Most have a safety lever to allow a round to be carried in the chamber. Where this lever is will vary by the action, but can almost always be reached by the firing hand with the fingers in firing position. Most have it on the back of the action in reach of the thumb, but some have it on or near the trigger.

It’s possible, but not common, for a bolt action rifle to come with iron, or open, sights. It’s far more common to find them with a telescopic sight (scope) mounted just above the trigger. Rifles of this sort are normally for use in the 100 to 600 yard range, with some going much farther.

Calibers can be literally (correctly used) anything that can be made. For example, any round that fires a 0.224 caliber bullet (.223, .220 Swift, 218 Fireball, .222) can use the same barrel. A good gunsmith can take a reamer and cut the new chamber to fit the desired caliber, and you’re all set.

Commonly found calibers for North American hunting rifles include:
·         .223 Remington (5.56 NATO)
·         .25-06 (said twenty five ought six)
·         6 mm
·         6.5 mm
·         .308 Winchester (7.62 NATO)
·         .30-06 (thirty ought six, but often said as simply ought six)
·         .300 Magnum
·         7mm
·         7 Mag
·         8mm
·         .338 Mag

Now, what’s the difference between a bolt action hunting rifle and a bolt action sniper rifle?

The paint job. Seriously.

Most hunting rifles are a varnished wood stock, but fiberglass is becoming more popular. Apart from that, there really isn’t much difference. If a hunting rifle can shoot consistently, there is no reason a more sniper friendly scope couldn’t be mounted on it. Most sniper rifles are just modified hunting rifles. There are a few task specific ones now, but for years, the small town police sniper rifle of choice might have been the same one the chief used to get his elk the year before.

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