First bolt action rifles appeared somewhere in the mid-XIX century, and first magazine fed bolt actions were adopted by the Swiss army in the 1870s in the form of the Vetterly-Vitaly rifle. Since then and until the end of the World War 2, bolt action rifles and carbines were the main individual infantry long arms.
Bolt action rifle is a weapon, which requires a manual operation to reload a weapon prior to each shot. Term "bolt action" comes from the "bolt" - a part of the weapon that is used to feed cartridges into the chamber and to lock the barrel upon the fire. This part also is more generally known as "breech block", but the term "bolt" is usually referred to the longitudinally movable breech block. So, to fire each shot from bolt action rifle, one must manually unlock the bolt, open it to extract and eject spent case, close the bolt, feeding a fresh round into the chamber simultaneously, and then lock the bolt. When trigger is pulled, rifle goes off and another set of manipulations described above is required prior to the next shot can be fired. Bolt action rifles could be further divided in numerous sub-categories, such as single-shot or magazine-fed rifles, Turn-bolts or straight pull bolts etc.
There have been a Handful of succsessful bolt actions; there have been a number of unsuccsessful ones, and there are some which appear to be different simply to avoid patent litigation, but knowledge of the principal systems will probably be sufficient guide to anything which may be encountered. Bolt Systems are divided into two - Turn-Bolts and Straight-pull bolts:
TURN-BOLTS: So-called because to open them it is necessary to lift the handle and so rotate the body of the bolt in order to unlock it from the chamer or action :-
Mauser: The most widely used, because it is undoubtedly the strongest and generally considered to be the most reliable and accurate. The bolt carries lugs with which it locks firmly into the chamber so that there can be no movement of the bolt during firing. The drawback is that the bolt must revolve sufficiently to disengage these lugs before it can move backwards, and on loading it must close completely before it can be rotated to lock. Together with this bolt came the charger-loading system, adopted by many other bolt actions, in which the ammunition is held in some form of spring clip. This clip is positioned above the magazine and the cartridges are pushed from the clip, into the magazine, after which the clip is dicarded. In order to avoid confusion between this system and the system developed by mannlicher, the Mauser (and lee, and others,) system is called `charger loading`, while the mannlicher system is called `clip loading`
Lee: The Lee turnbolt is theoretically weaker and less accurate than the Mauser, but it is undoubtedly the fastest and smoothest of all bolt actions; a trained soldier with a Lee-Enfield rifle can deliver aimed fire twice as fast as one with a Mauser, The fundamental difference is that the bolt lugs lock into recesses in the action body; these have curved surfaces so that as soon as the bolt begins to turn, it also begins to open and move backwards, and on closing it can begin rotation before it is completely closed. The theoretical disadvantage is that since the bolt is not locked into chamber it can compress slightly under the pressure of explosion and so affect the chamber pressure and ballistic. In practice this is scarcely noticeable.
Krag-J°rgensen: The Krag sysytem, from Norway, is less a bolt system than a magazine system, since the bolt is of no great interest but the magazine lies laterally beneth the bolt and feeds up and around the left side to deliver the cartridge to the boltwayon the left -hand side of the action. Loading is done by opening a hinged trap-door and pushing loose rounds in; on closing the door a magazine spring bears on the rounds and forces them up to the feedway. It is reliable enough system, particularly with rimmed ammunition, but, as with so many other system, one wonders whether avoiding existing patents was the major reason for its development.
STRAIGHT-PULL BOLTS So-called because to open them it is only necessary to grasp the handle and pull it straight back without lifting.
It should be noted also, that the term "carbine" refers to shortened and lightened rifle, does not matter if it is bolt action or automatic.
Sharpshooters and Long Range (Not Bolt action Specific)
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