The Industrial Revolution provided the technological means to mass produce sufficient quantities of reliable, rifled firearms to make formal, massed marksmanship a worthy pursuit for militaries. No longer considered a bayonet handle capable of a few volleys before the inevitable infantry charge, long guns required rewriting established tactical doctrine. Of course, since then technology and tactics have continued to evolve.
This is well summed up in a pair of books from our friends at Osprey Publications (OspreyPublishing.com). The Mosin-Nagant Rifle by Bill Harriman documents the important mass-issued repeater. Besides more recently becoming an increasingly-popular surplus rifle for sporterization projects, the Mosin-Nagant was an effort to modernize Russia’s Imperial army in the late 1800s. Armed with a mishmash of various single shots, needle, and bolt action rifles in a variety of cartridges, Russian commanders in the Russo-Turkish War still viewed the bayonet as the primary infantry weapon. This in 1877, about a decade after formal musketry and competitive rifle programs had been formed in other countries. Imperial officer Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin and Belgian designer Léon Nagant created the then-modern bolt-action repeater that bears their name. Harriman, a retired auctioneer of militaria and firearms as well as avid collector, details the Mosin-Nagant’s development and history well.
Small arms evolved quite a bit since then. SA80 Assault Rifles by Neil Grant details the development of the current British family of 5.56mm NATO weapons. Beginning with experiments following World War II, Great Britain trialed a series of small arms that led to the SA80 series in the 1980s. Like our AR-15, it experienced a number of flaws upon initial release. However, an improvement project done in partnership with Heckler & Koch led to the A2 version that has proved quite effective and reliable. Having competed with UK troops in Service Conditions events for over a decade, I can attest that British shooters and their rifles are consistent winners.
Read more in the June 2017 issue.