Rifling
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Basic Information

Rifling is the series of spiralling grooves carved into the inside of the barrel of any firearm which isn't smooth bore. A round fired along the barrel engages with the rifling, either directly or by means of a wrapper (such as the leather patch used in early rifle-muskets) or a driving band (as in some modern artillery shells). Once engaged the round turns as the groove turns, setting itself spinning around it's long axis and the resultant spin evens out any small inconsistencies which would otherwise push it off target, thus greatly increasingly the accuracy of the shot.

The number of grooves and the tightness of the spiral (and thus the resulting spin speed of the round) are much debated and experimented on with different gunsmiths having different opinions on what composition is best.

The introduction of rifling made smooth bore weapons obsolete for most purposes, although the two principles co-existed for a time since a muzzle loading weapon could be reloaded faster if it was a smooth bore due to the much tighter fit required to allow a rifle ball to grip the rifling. Breech loading removed this advantage and left the rifled weapon clearly superior for all but a few applications.

Rifling gave it's name to the rifle (originally the rifle-musket), but as noted above is found in pretty much every modern weapon except the shotgun and a few types of ordnance.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Note that rifling on a weapon wears out over time, more or less proportionately to the number of rounds fired - using corrosive primers, firing large numbers of harder rounds (such as a lot of armour piercing) or letting the barrel overheat (and thus soften) by sustained firing all accelerate this process. Weapons can be re-bored and/or re-lined but replacement is often easier, especially for small arms.
    • Thus, an elderly or poorly maintained weapon may well have its "bore shot out" and so be less accurate and less powerful (and possibly more prone to stoppages).
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