“This is my rifle; this is my gun. One is for pleasure; the other for fun . . .” As anyone who’s been there knows, a warfighter develops a pretty intimate relationship with his (or her) weapon while in theater. From the Revolutionary War through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these 7 rifles were the ones American troops depended on when the bullets started flying:
1. The Long Rifle
The American Long Rifle took longer to reload than a British musket, but it’s superior accuracy (due to a smaller and harder round) and longer range allowed the patriots to disburse themselves and take out the tightly-grouped Red Coats one-by-one while remaining beyond the enemy’s reach.
2. The Spencer Repeating Rifle
The Spencer gave the Union Army a significant tactical advantage during the Civil War with a firing rate of 20 rounds per minute compared to 2 to 3 rounds per minute of the Confederate’s muzzle loaders. Ironically the Department of War balked at having troops use the Spencer initially because they thought they’d waste too much ammo, but Christopher Spencer himself demo’d the rifle to President Lincoln and he subsequently ordered its introduction.
3. The Winchester
“The gun that won the west.” “Winchester” is a general term for a series of rifles, the most successful of which was the 1873 model, which was not used by the U.S. military. The 1895 model was, however, championed by none other than Theodore Roosevelt who was first introduced to the weapon during a big game hunting expedition.
4. The Springfield
The 1903 model of the Springfield rifle was derived from the version that contributed to the disaster at Little Big Horn because of it’s tendency to jam. The 1903 was a more reliable rifle and found its place with U.S. Army troops in the trenches of France during World War 1.
5. The M1
Patton called it “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” the M1 Garand was the U.S. military’s first standard issue semi-automatic rifle. The M1’s semiautomatic operation gave American forces a significant advantage in firepower and shot-to-shot recovery time over individual enemy infantrymen during both World War 2 and the Korean War.
6. The M16
Despite growing pains, mostly associated with jamming, early in it’s service life, the M16 eventually became a trusted rifle across all of the branches of service from the Vietnam War through Desert Storm until the present day. Total worldwide production of M16s has been approximately 8 million, making it the most-produced firearm of its 5.56 mm caliber.
7. The M4
The weapon of choice for most special operators since 9-11. The M4’s design was based on shortening the barrel length without compromising long-range accuracy, faster firing action, capability of setting a three-shot pattern, and basic versatility for additional equipment (flash suppressors, silencer, grenade launchers, etc.). All factors were geared for close combat and what the Pentagon describes as “fluid tactical situations.” (h/t diffen.com)