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RIFFLEfirearm with a rifled bore—i.e., having shallow spiral grooves cut inside the barrel to impart a spin to the projectile, thus stabilizing it in flight. A rifled barrel imparts much greater accuracy to a projectile, as compared with a smoothbore barrel. The name rifle, most often applied to a weapon fired from the shoulder, may also denote a crew-served weapon such as a rifled cannon or recoilless rifle. Although field guns, pistols, and machine guns have rifled barrels, they are not normally referred to as rifles.

Rifled firearms date back to at least the 15th century. As some of the earliest had straight rather than spiral grooves, it is thought that the initial purpose may have been to receive the powder residue, or fouling, that was a problem with early firearms. Gun makers soon discovered, however, that spiral grooves made bullets spin and that spinning improved their range and accuracy. The effect increased when spherical balls were superseded by somewhat-elongated projectiles.

Bolt-action rifles similar to 20th-century military arms remain the most common type for hunting. Bolt action is efficient, reliable, and easy to manufacture and maintain. Most weapons of that type have box magazines to hold cartridges for quick reloading after each shot. Lever-action and slide- or pump-action rifles are less commonly used in the 21st century, but after World War II semiautomatic rifles became popular for hunting in the United States. It is illegal in some countries to hunt with a semiautomatic rifle.

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