Thursday, August 5, 2010

Future Rifle

The scout rifle was a good attempt, thirty or so years ago, to come up with the ideal all-around rifle. How well it succeeded is open to debate. In any case, enough time has passed to ask what we have learned and where we go from here--how to make an even better general purpose rifle.

In the Americas, at least, the all around rifle was for a long time the .30-30 lever action, and for many people it still fills that role just fine. It is compact, fast handling and convenient. Its accuracy, range and power are not all that might be wished, but good enough for a whole lot of uses. Self defense, pest control, deer hunting, or just a bit of fun at the target range, the .30-30 has it covered.

Then, at least for people who felt they needed something better than the .30-30, the general purpose rifle became the scout, or other full powered carbine with a bolt action. The bolt action's power to weight ratio and durability afield, its potential for fine accuracy and its proven reliability are plus points. A miniaturized bolt action in .308 or similar caliber serves about the same purpose as a .30-30 cowboy carbine, but has more reach and punch.

This is the twenty-first century, though, and many prefer self-loading rifles. It should be possible to come up with something suitably light and compact, with enough power for all around use, if we use a short and fat cartridge, perhaps one in the Winchester Super Short Magnum (WSSM) family, or perhaps something else that is similar. The next big thing, of course, will be caseless ammo, but development seems to be lagging there.

The bullpup rifle configuration offers the advantage of allowing a comparatively long barrel in a short rifle, so that is the setup we should be looking at. The big problem here is the long trigger linkage required and the associated lousy trigger pull. If no mechanical solution appears, perhaps it is time to revisit the electronic ignition idea invented by Voere. If a battery operated rifle is a bit too modern for most shooters to consider, perhaps the scheme could be made to work on the piezoelectric principle, without batteries.

Optical sights of various types are now well proven in all field uses including combat, and it seems reasonable to outfit the new style rifle to take any sight you like. There is now no need to specify which type of sight the rifle uses since this can be left as an option for the rifleman to work out. For general purpose use, the heads up display of a red dot or holographic type sight shows great promise, but we need not lock ourselves into the concept of using this kind of aiming reference. The Picatinny mil std. 1913 rail seems as good a way as any to accommodate whatever sight the rifleman prefers. You can even mount iron sights on the rail.

There should be some convenient way to mount a flashlight on the rifle. Many shooters resist this idea, for various reasons. In defensive uses such as camp security in the wilderness, though, it has much to recommend it. If you are hunting where lights are illegal, you simply remove the light. If you are in a fighting situation where showing a light would be a poor idea, you leave it turned off.

Well, those are my thoughts. The key ideas are what they have been all along, something compact and convenient, lightweight, versatile and reliable. Essentially, what I'm pointing to is a flat-top bullpup with a sight rail, a decent trigger and a place to mount a light. Seems simple enough, but I can't find one in the shops.

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