Developing the bolt-action rifle

A brief look at the history of an excellent military weapon

Some of the standard issued models


The first bolt-action rifle was produced in 1824 by Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse, following work on breechloading rifles that dated to the 18th century. Von Dreyse would perfect his Needle Rifle by 1836, and it was adopted by the Prussian Army in 1841. It became the first bolt-action weapon to see combat in 1864. The United States purchased 900 Greene rifles in 1857, but this weapon was ultimately considered too complicated for issue to soldiers and was supplanted by the Springfield rifle , a conventional muzzle loading rifle. During the American Civil War, the bolt-action Palmer carbine was patented in 1863, and by 1865, 1000 were purchased for use as cavalry weapons. The French Army adopted its first bolt action rifle, the Chassepo rifle, 1866 and followed with the metallic cartridge bolt action Gras rifle in 1874 .

European armies continued to develop bolt-action rifles through the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, first adopting tubular magazines as on the Kropatschek rifle and the Lebel rifle, a magazine system pioneered by the Winchester rifle of 1866. Ultimately the military turned to bolt-action rifles using a box magazine; the first of its kind was the M1885 Remington-Lee, but the first to be generally adopted was the British 1888 Lee-Metford. The Mauser G93 was considered the epitome of this type of action, and its descendents became the standard against which all such rifles are measured. World War I marked the height of the bolt-action rifle's use, with all of the nations in that war fielding troops armed with various bolt-action designs.

How the bolt-action rifle operates

Bolt action is a type of firearm action in which the weapon's bolt is operated manually by the opening and closing of the breech (barrel) with a small handle, most commonly placed on the right-hand side of the weapon (for right-handed users). As the handle is operated, the bolt is unlocked, the breech is opened, the spent cartridge case is withdrawn and ejected, the firing pin is cocked (this occurs either on the opening or closing of the bolt, depending on design), and finally a new round/cartridge (if available) is placed into the breech and the bolt closed. Bolt action firearms are most often rifles, but there are some bolt-action shotguns and a few handguns as well. Examples of this system date as far back as the early 19th century, notably in the Dreyse needle gun. From the late 19th century, all the way through both World Wars, the bolt-action rifle was the standard infantry firearm for most of the world's military.
Bolt Action Rifle Animation

Modern Models