Why No Revolver Rifles?

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Cheimison, Oct 31, 2004.

  1. Cheimison

    Cheimison Former Guest

    Sep 8, 2004
    Why didn't we see revolver-style rifles in WW1 or or WW2 (for snipers and poor countries that had bolt actions).
    One of the main problems with the bolt action was that you could almost never place a follow-up shot - you had to cycle the bolt, and with most users who hadn't mastered the art this meant unshouldering the rifle and bringing it to your hip. A soldier lost precious time and was vulernable while cycling. In addition this made the weapons nearly useless at close range with the enemy.
    Now if the rifles just had a revolver chamber this problem would be solved. More reliable and cheaper/easier to manufacture than a than a magazine feed, and since a 5 shot .454 can stand up to those pressures (higher than most rifles) it seems likely that a rifle-revolver could hold 5 or 6 rounds, and a sniper or soldier could get off quick shots with this relatively simple, reliable design.
    Now I know revolver rifles exist/were made, but why weren't they used instead of bolt-actions which is clumsy by comparison?
  2. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Good question.

    I can see several reasons why a bolt or semi-auto action would be more desireable under military/field conditions.

    1.) Bolt and semi-auto systems are a "normally closed" system and dirt/dust/grime are kept out....a revolver's cylinder and the ratchet & pawl and ejection systems are open to all sorts of crud/weather, etc.

    2.) Weight...a cylinder of the size to hold and take the pressures of, say, a .30-06, is gonna be pretty hefty and pretty heavy.

    3.) Ejection and reloading. Ejection is simple and internal with a bolt/auto, with a revolver it's out in the open where it can get crudded up. Also, a bolt/auto can be quickly reloaded with stripper clips and box magazines. You can reload a revolver with speedloaders, but a speedloader for rifle-sized cartridges would be pretty bulky.

    4.) Cleaning & maintenance. Most military bolt/auto rifles are easy to completely break down to clean and maintain. Most revolvers are not. If you've ever taken a Colt or S&W completely apart to clean the internal mechanism you'll know it's not a job for the untrained or faint-of-heart.

    Yes, I know that there were many revolver handguns that functiond reliably and well under military conditions....the Colt SAA, British Webleys, Colt & Smith M1917....but they all shot low pressure (compared to rifles) cartridges.
    Scaling those designs up to handle rifle cartridges would be pretty bulky and heavy.

    Excellent question, though.....I love questions that make me actually think.

  3. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    For 'I know what you had for dinner' ranges, we have always had bayonets, for longer ranges, rifles; why would anyone (Pay attention, here, US army) sacrifice accuracy for simple volume of fire?
    Knowing, as I do, the deficiecies of a boltgun, compared to a semi-auto,I am simply amazed by the performance of marksmen like Charles Hathaway, J. J. Conway, and others, shooting "hopeless" rifles.
    JJ beat the score that won the "Queen's Cup" Trophy, last year, in Canada, but could not win the prize,because he was not Canadian; Chuck 'only' coached our Palma team, down under.
    It's not that rapid fire is bad; it has it's place; rather, most place a premium, on accurate rapid fire. The revolving rifle never won it's place, primarily, because it never earned one!
  4. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    " why would anyone (Pay attention, here, US army) sacrifice accuracy for simple volume of fire?"

    Well Stash......because these decisions are made by two kinds of people.

    1.) Civilian political appointees in the Pentagon.....most of whom have studiously avoided ever having served in the military.

    2.) Armchair officers in the Pentagon whose only experience with firepower is with elastic bands and paperclips they shoot from one cubicle to another.

    What with the current trend for high tech add-ons to our MBSR (Main Battle Squirrel Rifle), the military will soon be ordering more batteries than bullets.
  5. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    Silly me! But then, I still shoot a couple of .45-70's, out beyond 600.
    Killed a Mulie, couple of years ago, in NM, at over 350, with irons.
    It took a LOT longer to get him out, than to get him.
    Wonder how many shots it would have taken, at that range, with a .223???
  6. Icon-oclast

    Icon-oclast New Member

    Aug 19, 2004
    Chemison, there were a few "revolving rifles" in the American "transitional" era of 1850 - 1870, predominantly Colt items. They were heavy, awkward and not generally embraced.
  7. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Right on, Icon-oclast. These were the various models of the Colt Model 1855 sidehammer percussion revolving rifle (and shotgun).

    It was made in .36, .40, .44, .50, .56 and .64 (rare) calibers in the rifle and carbine, and 20 and 10 guage in the shotgun.

    A few of the .56 caliber Full Stock Military Rifles were purchased by the U.S. Military. Whether these were actually issued to troops or just purchased for evaluation, I'm not sure.

    In any case, it was not a roaring success.

    Does anybody know of any revolving rifles made for metallic cartridges?
  8. jamesed

    jamesed New Member

    While there were non Revolver Rifles thier were Revolver machne guns. Well more like revolver cannon really. The Mauser Werk of Germany developed a revolver cannon that had a high rate of fire (1200 rounds per minute). The concept was rather simple.

    As the cylinder revolved around a center axis the chambers were automatically loaded with a fresh round, the round was fired and the chamber were unloaded.

    This provided a small light weight wepons package when compared to the M61 gattling gun that the United States chose. The only draw back was very limited barrel life (but it had quick change barrels) and could not develope the velocity of the american 20 mm loads.

    This concept is used to day by several European Jet fighters (mainly french and English) with the 30 mm Aden weapon system.
  9. SouthernMoss

    SouthernMoss *Admin Tech Staff*

    Jan 1, 2003
    SW MS
    Interesting info, Jamesed. Thanks!

    And welcome to TFF!
  10. OHshooter

    OHshooter New Member

    Aug 14, 2003
    One of the negative aspects of a revolving rifle is the gap between the barrel and cylinder allows gas to escape. If the supporting hand is forward of the cylinder, the shooters hand/forearm can be burned. Also if the chamber isn't lined up precisely with the barrel small pieces of lead/jacket will be scattered and can cause a wound.

    Some sort of a shield could be added to prevent this but this would create a place for dirt and debris to collect that would eventually lead to a jam. Not a good idea in a combat situation.

    Shoot a revolver over top of a piece of paper and see what happens to the paper.

    There was one or two cartridge revolving rifles made in the not too distant past but I don't recall who made them. I think that they were Itailan made.
  11. yoric

    yoric Former Guest

    Nov 5, 2005
    And what was the "reason" that you couldn't have gotten closer? In the time it took for a 45-70 bullet to cover 1000 ft (ie, 3/4 second or more) the deer could easily have taken a step, and been gut-hit. Sounds like you are no sportsman. Furthermore, the 45-70 bullet drifts badly in the wind, making a poor hit quite likely for that reason, too. This is if you had a rangefinder, if you knew where to hold for a 350 yd hit, and if the gun and you are capable of grouping 8" at 350 yds, under field conditions, with iron sights, which is highly unlikely.
  12. chaingun401

    chaingun401 New Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Auburn, ME
    I wonder:

    If the revolving rifle never earned its place in the military, then why would it have not found a place amongst the sport shooters? Sure, the military moved on and found the next best thing during the American Civil War, but there were (and are) people who would've found the Colt surplus to be an interesting batch with which to tinker; I.E. someone had to figure out that reusable metallic cartridges were the answer to the risky paper ones.

    On a separate but relevant note, why is it that virtually every model of firearm is an inbred ripoff of an unidentified original, but the Rossi Circuit Judge stands alone in its own niche?
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