Conventional rifling of a 90 mm M75 cannon (production year 1891, Austria-Hungary)
Rifling of a 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 tank gun.
Traditional rifling of a 9 mm handgun barrel.
Conventional rifling (left) and polygonal rifling (right). Both types of rifling use a spiraling pattern.
The spiraling pattern (here with polygonal rifling) is shown.
Rifling in a French 19th century cannon.
57-N-231 standard 7.62×39mm military bullets with steel core - the one on the left is unfired, the one on the right is fired, with the rifling grooves visible. Notice the copper wash scraped off and the steel jacket is exposed on the groove marks.
Three recovered 7.62×51mm NATO bullets (next to an unfired cartridge), showing rifling marks imparting anti-clockwise spin
Russian 122 mm shrapnel shell (which has been fired) showing rifling marks on the copper alloy driving band around its base, indicating clockwise spin
Cannonball equipped with winglets for rifled cannons circa 1860
Ogival shell of the La Hitte system, 1858, designed to engage with clockwise rifling
A Parrott rifle, used by both Confederate and Union forces in the American Civil War.

Machining helical grooves into the internal surface of a gun's barrel for the purpose of exerting torque and thus imparting a spin to a projectile around its longitudinal axis during shooting to stabilize the projectile longitudinally by conservation of angular momentum, improving its aerodynamic stability and accuracy over smoothbore designs.

- Rifling

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Firearm in which the user loads the ammunition via the rear (breech) end of its barrel, as opposed to a muzzleloader, which loads ammunition via the front (muzzle).

Breech from Russian 122 mm M1910 howitzer, modified and combined with 105mm H37 howitzer barrel
An animation showing the loading cycle for a large naval breech-loader. A series of interlocking doors closes and opens the path from the gunhouse to prevent a flash from traveling down the path to the magazine.
Three-shot experimental breech-loading cannon (burst) belonging to Henry VIII of England, 1540–1543.
Early types of breech-loaders from the 15th and 16th century on display at the Army Museum in Stockholm.
Henry VIII's breech-loading hunting gun, 16th century. The breech block rotates on the left on hinges, and is loaded with a reloadable iron cartridge. Thought to have been used as a hunting gun to shoot birds. The original wheellock mechanism is missing.
Breech-loading firearm that belonged to Philip V of Spain, made by A. Tienza, Madrid circa 1715. It came with a ready-to-load reusable cartridge. This is a miquelet system.
Mechanism of Philip V's breech-loading firearm (detail).
The breech mechanism of the Ferguson rifle.
de Bange breech
Wahrendorff breech

Breech-loading provides the advantage of reduced reloading time, because it is far quicker to load the projectile and propellant into the chamber of a gun/cannon than to reach all the way over to the front end to load ammunition and then push them back down a long tube – especially when the projectile fits tightly and the tube has spiral ridges from rifling.

.303 British

A .303 in calibre rimmed rifle cartridge.

Left to right: .303 British, 6.5×50mmSR Arisaka and .30-06 Springfield soft point ammunition
Longitudinal section of Mk VI ammunition 1904, showing the round nose bullet
Longitudinal section of Mk VII ammunition circa 1915, showing the "tail heavy" design
.303 British Cartridge (Mk VII), manufactured by CAC in 1945
Cutaways of the five types of ammunition produced in Japan
Commercial soft point .303 British loaded in a Lee–Enfield five-round charger.
Civilian soft point .303 ammunition, suitable for hunting purposes.

The .303 inch bore diameter is measured between rifling lands as is the common practice in Europe which follows the traditional black powder convention.


Muzzle-loaded long gun that appeared as a smoothbore weapon in the early 16th century, at first as a heavier variant of the arquebus, capable of penetrating heavy armour.

Muskets and bayonets aboard the frigate Grand Turk
Flintlock mechanism
Heavy muskets, image produced 1664.
Early matchlocks as illustrated in the Baburnama (16th century)
Various antique Tanegashima.
Large Korean Jochong (Matchlock Musket) in Unhyeon Palace with Korean cannon Hongyipao (Culverin).
Minié balls
An English Civil War manual of the New Model Army showing a part of the steps required to load and fire an earlier musket. The need to complete this difficult and potentially dangerous process as quickly as possible led to the creation of the military drill.
Diagram of a 1594 Dutch musketry volley formation
Illustration of a 1639 Ming musketry volley formation. From Bi Maokang 畢懋康, Jun qi tu shuo 軍器圖說, ca. 1639.
Iron ball mould

The musket was a smoothbore firearm and lacked rifling grooves that would have spun the bullet in such a way as to increase its accuracy.

Gun barrel

Crucial part of gun-type ranged weapons such as small firearms, artillery pieces and air guns.

The Tsar Cannon with its massive bore and the stacked barrel-looking exterior
A female worker boring out the barrel of a Lee-Enfield rifle during WWI
The barrel of a 240 mm howitzer in use in 1944
A German Army G22 with fluted barrel
A cartridge being chambered into a Springfield M1903.
Illustration of the various sections of a typical rifle chamber. The back end is to the left, and the front is to the right. — body (purple), shoulder (pink) and neck (green).
Closeup of barrel throat area. The chamber is to the left, and the muzzle is to the right. The freebore (cyan) and leade (dark grey) transition into rifled bore (pale grey), and the comparison between freebore diameter vs. rifling groove and land diameter.
The inside of a Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore tank gun (seen from the muzzle) of a Leopard 2A4
Muzzle of a SIG 550 rifle, equipped with a birdcage-type flash suppressor
Various types of shotgun chokes
Muzzle blast modulated by an A2-style flash suppressor
Production steps in the cold-hammer forging process to produce the barrels for a double-barrelled shotgun

Most modern firearms (except muskets, shotguns, most tank guns, and some artillery pieces) and air guns (except some BB guns) have helical grooves called riflings machined into the bore wall.


Field of mechanics concerned with the launching, flight behavior and impact effects of projectiles, especially ranged weapon munitions such as bullets, unguided bombs, rockets or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.

Trajectories of three objects thrown at the same angle (70°). The black object does not experience any form of drag and moves along a parabola. The blue object experiences Stokes' drag, and the green object Newtonian drag.
Gaetano Marzagaglia, Del calcolo balistico, 1748
Baseball throws can exceed 100 mph
Catapult 1 Mercato San Severino
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside, 1984.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket, 2017
Ballistics can be studied using high-speed photography or high-speed cameras. A photo of a Smith & Wesson revolver firing, taken with an ultra high speed air-gap flash. Using this sub-microsecond flash, the bullet can be imaged without motion blur.
Apollo 11 – Astrodynamic calculations have permitted spacecraft to travel to and return from the Moon

A ballistic body is a free-moving body with momentum which can be subject to forces such as the forces exerted by pressurized gases from a gun barrel or a propelling nozzle, normal force by rifling, and gravity and air drag during flight.


A 81mm L16 smoothbore mortar
Replica of "Twin Sisters" smoothbores used in the Battle of San Jacinto (1836)
A smooth-bore, cast-iron ship's cannon, from the Grand Turk, a replica of a mid-18th century three-masted frigate
USS Monitor (1862) with the muzzle of one of its two 11-inch smoothbore Dahlgren guns showing

A smoothbore weapon is one that has a barrel without rifling.

Angular momentum

Rotational analog of linear momentum.

This gyroscope remains upright while spinning due to the conservation of its angular momentum.
Velocity of the particle m with respect to the origin O can be resolved into components parallel to (v∥) and perpendicular to (v⊥) the radius vector r. The angular momentum of m is proportional to the perpendicular component v⊥ of the velocity, or equivalently, to the perpendicular distance r⊥ from the origin.
Relationship between force (F), torque (τ), momentum (p), and angular momentum (L) vectors in a rotating system. r is the position vector.
A figure skater in a spin uses conservation of angular momentum – decreasing her moment of inertia by drawing in her arms and legs increases her rotational speed.
The torque caused by the two opposing forces Fg and −Fg causes a change in the angular momentum L in the direction of that torque (since torque is the time derivative of angular momentum). This causes the top to precess.
The angular momentum of the particles i is the sum of the cross products R × MV + Σri × mivi.
The 3-angular momentum as a bivector (plane element) and axial vector, of a particle of mass m with instantaneous 3-position x and 3-momentum p.
Newton's derivation of the area law using geometric means.

Bicycles and motorcycles, frisbees rifled bullets, and gyroscopes owe their useful properties to conservation of angular momentum.


Any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual.

A US Navy sailor fires a Mk 18 Mod 1 carbine at a target.
A Colt Single Action Army revolver, with hammer cocked back
A Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol
Springfield Armory M1903 rifle
A US Marine firing a Mossberg 500 shotgun
MG 42 general-purpose machine gun with retracted bipod
The Accuracy International Arctic Warfare series of sniper rifles is a standard issue in the armies of several countries, including those of Britain, Ireland, and Germany (shown).
Czechoslovak 7.65 mm submachine gun Škorpion vz. 61 designed in 1959.
Suomi M31 submachine with a 70-round drum magazine attached, 20- and 50-round box magazines.
The AK-47 is one of the most widely produced and used assault rifles in the world.
Belgian FN SCAR-H
Hand cannon from the Chinese Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)
The istinggar, a result of Indo-Portuguese gun-making traditions
A) The matchlock gun with button for trigger, which came to Lisbon from Bohemia, used by the Portuguese until the conquest of Goa in 1510. B) The Indo-Portuguese matchlock gun resulted from the combination of Portuguese and Goan gunmaking. C) The Japanese matchlock gun appeared as a copy of the first firearm introduced in the Japanese islands.
A musketeer (1608)
Hand cannon being fired from a stand, "Belli Fortis", manuscript, by Konrad Kyeser, 1400
Percussion cap and early bolt action form
Various Japanese (samurai) Edo period matchlocks (tanegashima)
A wheellock pistol mechanism from the 17th century
Flintlock mechanism
(From left to right): A .577 Snider cartridge (1867), a .577/450 Martini-Henry cartridge (1871), a later drawn brass .577/450 Martini-Henry cartridge, and a .303 British Mk VII SAA Ball cartridge.
The French FAMAS, example of a bullpup rifle
The M4 carbine, a modern-day service rifle capable of being fired automatically. It is in service by the U.S. military and has a wide ability for customization.
Gun-related homicide and suicide rates in high-income OECD countries, 2010, ordered by total death rates (homicide plus suicide plus other gun-related deaths).

Most modern firearms (with the notable exception of smoothbore shotguns) have rifled barrels to impart spin to the projectile for improved flight stability.

.308 Winchester

Smokeless powder rimless bottlenecked rifle cartridge.

.308 Winchester
From left to right 9.3×62mm, .30-06 Springfield, 7.92×57mm Mauser, 6.5×55mm and .308 Winchester cartridges. The 7.62×51mm NATO (not pictured) is similar in appearance to the .308 Winchester.
Trajectory comparisons between .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and .300 Winchester Magnum<ref>Litz, Brian. Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting. Cedar Springs, MI : Applied Ballistics, LLC, 2009.</ref>
Ultra-high speed photo of a 150 grain FMJ .308 Winchester bullet photographed with an air-gap flash

The common rifling twist rate for this cartridge is 305 mm (1 in 12 in), 4 grooves, Ø lands = 7.62 mm, Ø grooves = 7.82 mm, land width = 4.47 mm and the primer type is large rifle.

Polygonal rifling

Conventional eight groove rifling on the left, and octagonal polygonal rifling on the right.
The FX-05 Xiuhcoatl is an example of an assault rifle that uses Polygonal rifling.
Hexagonal polygonal rifling.

Polygonal rifling is a type of gun barrel rifling where the traditional sharp-edged "lands and grooves" are replaced by less pronounced "hills and valleys", so the barrel bore has a polygonal (usually hexagonal or octagonal) cross-sectional profile.