Battle rifle
A battle rifle is a military service rifle
Service rifle
The service rifle of a given army or armed force is that which it issues as standard to its soldiers. In modern forces, this is typically a highly versatile and rugged assault rifle suitable for use in nearly all theatres and environments...

 that fires a full power rifle cartridge, such as 7.62x51mm NATO. While the designation of battle rifle is usually given to post-World War II select fire infantry rifles such as the H&K G3
Heckler & Koch G3
The G3 is a 7.62mm battle rifle developed in the 1950s by the German armament manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH in collaboration with the Spanish state-owned design and development agency CETME ....

, the FN FAL
The Fusil Automatique Léger or FAL is a self-loading, selective fire battle rifle produced by the Belgian armaments manufacturer Fabrique Nationale de Herstal . During the Cold War it was adopted by many North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, with the notable exception of the United States...

 or the M14
M14 rifle
The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO  ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 was used for U.S...

, this term can also apply to older military bolt-action or semi-automatic rifles such as the Mosin-Nagant
The Mosin–Nagant is a bolt-action, internal magazine-fed, military rifle invented under the government commission by Russian and Belgian inventors, and used by the armed forces of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and various other nations....

, Mauser 98k, Lee-Enfield
The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century...

 or the M1 Garand
M1 Garand
The M1 Garand , was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to the infantry of any nation. Called "the greatest battle implement ever devised" by General George S...



The battle rifle's power and long-range accuracy are intended to engage targets at long distances, but this comes with a trade-off of length and weight that make it relatively cumbersome in close-quarter combat. Also, the recoil of a full-size cartridge makes most battle rifles difficult to control when using full-automatic fire, though a few designs have attempted to control this tendency.

In contrast, assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

s fire smaller intermediate-size cartridges
Intermediate cartridges
An intermediate cartridge is a military assault rifle cartridge that is less powerful than typical full power battle rifle cartridges such as the 7.92mm Mauser or US .30-06, but still significantly more powerful than pistol cartridges...

 such as the 5.56x45mm NATO
5.56x45mm NATO
5.56×45mm NATO is a rifle cartridge developed in the United States and originally chambered in the M16 rifle. Under STANAG 4172, it is a standard cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries. It is derived from, but not identical to, the .223 Remington cartridge...

 round used in the M16
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

, Chinese 5.8x42mm used in the QBZ-95
The QBZ-95 is an assault rifle manufactured by Arsenal 266, part of Norinco and Arsenal 296, under Jianshe Corp, China South for the People's Liberation Army, the armed forces of the People's Republic of China, Chinese People's Armed Police , and Chinese law enforcement. This weapon uses a...

 or the Russian moderate-velocity 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm
The Soviet 5.45×39mm cartridge is a rimless bottlenecked rifle cartridge. It was introduced into service in 1974 for use with the new AK-74 assault rifle. It gradually supplemented then largely replaced the 7.62x39mm round in service....

 cartridges of the AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

 and AK-74
The AK-74 is an assault rifle developed in the early 1970s in the Soviet Union as the replacement for the earlier AKM...

 series of rifles. However, some overlapping of rifle design and cartridge application occurs; for example a few relatively compact selective-fire rifles in 7.62x51mm NATO caliber have been produced.


During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 both Allied and Axis researchers observed that the majority of small-arms combat occurred at distances of about 300 metres or less, with few engagements occurring beyond that range. At these short ranges the battle rifle's advantages are mostly wasted. For this reason, modern armies have favored more compact, lighter, and more maneuverable rifles and carbines. This dimensional disadvantage provoked the development of the world's first true assault rifle that would become the German StG 44.

Recently, however, there has been a general backlash against carbines and light rifles in many armies around the world due to their having less range, penetration and power than battle rifles. Recent conflicts in desert environments have underscored the need for greater range while developments in body armor have created a need for more powerful munitions . A consequence of this was the creation of the Squad Designated Marksman
Designated marksman
The designated marksman is a military marksman role in a U.S. infantry squad. The term sniper was used in Soviet doctrine although the soldiers using the Dragunov were the first to use a specifically designed designated marksman's rifle. Sniper is also used in Russian doctrine...

 program in the U.S. Army and the Squad Advanced Marksman in the U.S. Marine Corps. The role of the designated marksman is to fill the "marksmanship gap" between the rifleman
Although ultimately originating with the 16th century handgunners and the 17th century musketeers and streltsy, the term rifleman originated from the 18th century. It would later become the term for the archetypal common soldier.-History:...

 (<300 metres) and the sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

 (>600 metres). Instead of relying on the use of smaller, lighter weapons with a higher rate of fire to hit a target, these programs place greater emphasis on marksmanship training, allowing the DM to take advantage of the greater range and power of heavier weapons. This has marked the return of battle rifles such as the U.S. Marine Corps Designated Marksman Rifle
U.S. Marine Corps Designated Marksman Rifle
The United States Marine Corps Designated Marksman Rifle is a semi-automatic, gas-operated rifle chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge...

 and the M14
M14, M-14, or M.14 may refer to:* M-14 , a road connecting Ann Arbor and Detroit* M14 * M14 mine, a United States anti-personnel landmine* AN/M14 incendiary grenade, a United States incendiary grenade...

, which had been phased out previously due to their limited effectiveness in the hands of beginner marksmen compared to lighter rifles and carbines like the M16
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

, CAR-15
The Colt Automatic Rifle-15 Military Weapons System or CAR-15 was a family of AR-15 and M16 rifle–based firearms marketed by Colt in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Due to their compact size, the short-barreled Colt Commando and XM177 versions of this family continued to be issued to the U.S...

, and M4
M4 carbine
The M4 carbine is a family of firearms tracing its lineage back to earlier carbine versions of the M16, all based on the original AR-15 designed by Eugene Stoner and made by ArmaLite. It is a shorter and lighter variant of the M16A2 assault rifle, with 80% parts commonality.It is a gas-operated,...



The term battle rifle is not defined or frequently used in military field manuals and government documents (being unofficially used in the field in reference to a Designated Marksman's rifle). Because the term is likely a neologism, placing a rifle into this category is somewhat subjective. There are some government requisition documents that do make mention of a specific rifle as a battle rifle, but those documents may simply be using the manufacturer's marketing name (similar to how Springfield Armory's M14 clone is trademarked as the M1A) when referring to a semi-automatic/controlled-fire hybrid weapon. A battle rifle lacking a full-auto setting may be advertised as a feature rather than a shortcoming since it curbs the tendency of a soldier under stress to wildly fire without aiming.

See also

  • Assault rifle
    Assault rifle
    An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

  • Marksman rifle
    Designated marksman rifle
    A designated marksman rifle is the weapon used by soldiers in the designated marksman role. The DM role fills the gap between a regular infantryman and a sniper and DMRs have been developed with this middle ground in mind....

  • Sniper rifle
    Sniper rifle
    In military and law enforcement terminology, a sniper rifle is a precision-rifle used to ensure more accurate placement of bullets at longer ranges than other small arms. A typical sniper rifle is built for optimal levels of accuracy, fitted with a telescopic sight and chambered for a military...

  • List of battle rifles
  • List of multiple barrel firearms
  • List of firearms
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