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A rifle is a gun with a grooved or "rifled" barrel. Rifled barrels are the modern norm, with the exception of shotguns and historical weapons and their reproductions, like muskets, muzzleloaders/blackpowder[?], blunderbusses[?], etc which are considered smoothbore. Most shotguns also do not have a rifled barrels, though shotguns that are specialized for firing slugs (which are just giant self-stabilizing bullets) do. The rifling, a series of cuts and lands strategely placed to cause an exiting bullet to spin, resulting in a more stable flight and hence more accuracy.

A rifle typically has a longer barrel than a handgun (see single-shot pistol[?]). Legally there are rules (usually local laws) for how short a barrel can be before a rifle turns into a handgun. There are exceptions such as the Contender line of firearms made by Thompson/Center Arms, which can be easily converted from pistol to rifle and back with a simple barrel change.

There are a variety of receiver actions used for rifles. These include bolt actions (e.g. Sako[?], Remington[?], Mauser[?], Krag-Jorgensen, Winchester[?], etc.) low wall and high wall single action (Browning No.1) and various semi-automatic rifle mechanisms.

The most common legal civilian uses for a rifle are hunting and "plinking" (informal target shooting), followed by police work, and various kinds of competition (e.g. benchrest[?], bullseye[?], etc). Rifles can be used routinely to a range of 500 yards, and up to 1500 yrds with specialized equipment (e.g. a scope, or a specific caliber).

For lists of specific types of rifles, see the articles for those types.

See also: assault rifle, sniper, firearm action

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