The Assault Rifle is a lightweight, selective-fire weapon that is currently being used by all armies in the world, the assault rifles can be made in two configurations: Classic (weapons like AK-47) and the bullpup (weapons like the FAMAS)
Assault rifles are primary offensive weapons of modern troops. Today's AR (Assault Rifles) usually have calibers ranging from 5.45mm to 7.62mm, magazine capacity of 20-30 or more rounds, selective full auto and single shot modes of fire, plus, in some models, 2 or 3 round burst mode. Effective range of fire is some 600 meters or so; effective rate of fire - up to 400-500 rounds per minute in full auto mode. Many assault rifles shown here are, in fact, parts of whole families of assault firearms (from short carbines to light machineguns - Steyr AUG and AK-47) are good examples). Almost all AR's may be equipped with bayonet, optical or Night Vision scope/sight and, some of them, with underbarrel grenade launcher or rifle grenade launcher (rifle
grenades usually are put on the barrel and fired with a blank cartridge). Today's trends in AR design are wide usage of hardened plastics and lightweight alloys and built-in holographic (collimator) or optical scopes with magnitfication of 1X to 4-6X (usually 1X or 1.5-3X).
Most of the worlds' recent assault rifles are designed in bull-pup configuration. This means that buttplate is attached directly to the receiver and handle with the trigger placed ahead of the magazine veil. The only major countries that still stick to conventional AR design are Germany (their latest G-36 looks a little bit more 'conservative', comparing to Austrian AUG or latest Israeli Tavor), Russia, where latest ARs are developed in both 'classic' (AN-94, AK-10x) and 'bull-pup' (Groza OC-14) styles and EUA, witch uses the Colt M4 and the M16.
The history of the concept of the assault rifle started in the early 1910s, when the famous Russian armorer, col. Fedorov designed a small-bore selective-fire rifle with detachable box magazine. Initially, Fedorov designed
a brand new small-caliber 6.5mm cartridge for his rifle, but, due to WW1, switched to the Japanese 6.5mm Arisaka load, which was less powerful than the Russian 7.62x54R and available in quantity. This rifle was acquired by the Russian army in small numbers in 1916 and served (in very limited quantities though) with the Russian and Soviet (Red) Army up to 1925. While the design of the selective-fire rifle was not unique for that time, the concept of the "lightened" cartridge, more suitable for full-auto fire, was new. Also, col.Fedorov invented the idea of infantry weapons families (assault rifle, light machinegun, medium machinegun, vehicle and/or aircraft mounted MGs) based on the same actions and receivers. The next step in this history was made by Germany - in the 1930s, theybegan research to develop a medium-power cartridge, which would be much lighter than 7.92mm German and easier to fire accurately in full-auto mode. This development
led to the 7.92x33mm cartridge (Pistolenpatrone 7.92mm). The Germans developed some weapons designs for this load, including the MP43 and Stg.44, but this was too late for Germany... Further development of such designs was made by German engineers in Spain, and later in West Germany, and led to the HK G3/G41 family of battle&assault rifles.
The United States also put in some effort to this idea, and before WW2 developed a special less-than-medium powered cartridge .30Carbine and a rifle for this cartridge - a so-called "baby-Garand" in semi-auto M1 and selective-fire M2.
But the largest stride forward was made by the USSR, when, in 1943, the Soviet Army adopted a new cartridge - the 7.62x39mm medium-power load. In 1945, the Soviet Army adopted the semi-auto SKS rifle in this chambering, and, in 1947 - the AK (known for the West as AK-47). The AK was Worlds' first successful assault rifle, and one of the most widely used. The Last major step on this road was made by US again - in the late 1950s, the US Army adopted a new (for the US) concept of military selective-fire rifle using a small-caliber cartridge. The first of, the most well-known assault rifle in the world, he and his variants are being used even today around all world]]such weapons adopted was the Armalite AR15/Colt M16, designed by Eugene Stoner. This adoption lately set the new world trend for
small-caliber (5.45-5.56mm / .22in.) high-velocity cartridges.
All further research and development, such as caseless ammunition, multiple-bullet or sabot cartridges, etc., still haven't produced any practical results.
Small arms technology including the assault rifle can be described as a mature
technology. However, changes in battlefield realities can be expected to lead to technological changes. As weapons evolve, the delicate balance for assault rifle systems between power, weight, recoil and terminal effects will likely shift once again in an attempt to defeat body armour, to match the range of full-power cartridges, and to penetrate through wind shields and thin-skinned vehicles while still producing good terminal effects. Possible future directions are armour piercing or saboted sub-caliber tungsten darts, more powerful cartridges, application of new composite materials such as carbon fiber or carbon nanotubes, and use of exotic metals such as titanium and scandium. As personal body armour technology improves, for example from the development of Magnetorheological fluid-based smart materials, assault rifle designs will be forced to adapt in order to remain effective. Changes in assault rifle technology may come from maturation of other fields - as camera technology becomes more advanced, cameras may be integrated into rifles. Much research and development has already been put into integration of rifles with advanced electronics.
The FN SCAR.The future of the assault rifle may not be entirely in the design of the firearm itself, but rather in the ammunition it fires. Reducing weight and cost being one of the original reasons for the development of the intermediate powered round and subsequently the assault rifle, that goal has been taken to a whole new level with the development of caseless ammunition which does away with the weight and cost of shell casings. Limitations of current technology prevent this idea from being successful but the concept is still being researched. Recent progress with the light weight small arms technology program has made the concept of caseless ammunition a step closer to reality.
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