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When did rifled barrels first appear? After that, when did they become a common feature on rifles?
 

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When did rifled barrels first appear? After that, when did they become a common feature on rifles?
A very difficult question to answer, due to the vast amount of myth and legend surrounding the development of twisted rifling, rather than straight grooves. Looking through my books it is generally agreed to be a German development in the late 15th century, but was not widespread until maybe at least a hundred years later, again in Germany, Switzerland and the Low Countries.

Remember that the military arm was a smooth-bore, due to the nature of warfare at the time, and there was no need to develop a military arm that was not only more accurate, but profoundly more expensive to produce

tac
 

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That's what I have read, too. I have seen some old woodcuts reproduced in a book (I can't remember where or when) that were of Germanic origin; said woodcuts showing the rifleman using a wooden mallet and a stout ramrod to drive the ball down the barrel. I guess that patching hadn't come into use at the time. If the black powder of that era was at all consistent, I would speculate that they may have achieved decent accuracy. Although, I would wager that the barrel tolerances were rather poor.
 

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That's what I have read, too. I have seen some old woodcuts reproduced in a book (I can't remember where or when) that were of Germanic origin; said woodcuts showing the rifleman using a wooden mallet and a stout ramrod to drive the ball down the barrel. I guess that patching hadn't come into use at the time. If the black powder of that era was at all consistent, I would speculate that they may have achieved decent accuracy. Although, I would wager that the barrel tolerances were rather poor.
You may be right, but don't overlook the fact that the Germans, Austrians and Swiss, with their long shooting traditions, were not in the business of making inaccurate weapons. One of the targets in a Schutzenfest I went to many years ago was a dove-sized target on a pole about 90 feet high - it was first shot at in 1603 with the then available weapons - usually high-grade wheellock sporting arms.

I have shot such a weapon, a .62 calibre Augsburg-made wheellock rifle dated 1610 [some $40,000s' worth], and found it easy to keep ten shots inside a two-inch circle at 20m - that seems accurate enough for me.

tac
 

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According to Greener the culprits are either Gaspard Kollner of Vienna in the 15th century or Augustus Kotter of Nuremburg in 1520. The twist may be based on the custom for German crossbow quarrel feathers. Kollner's "rifling" may have been straight, not twisted, to allow easier loading in a tight, fouled barrel.
 

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I think in general terms, we could say that the early musketeers were shooting rifled match-locks resting on forked shooting sticks...but they were specialists. The rest of the army was still using archery, pikes, swords, knives, axes, hammers, rocks, etc.

Otherwise, rifles would have been available to rich landowners for shooting deer and boar.

IIRC, smoothbore muskets with bayonets probably came into general use for the infantry in the late 17th century. They were not intended to be used as rifles, but to throw a massed volley of lead downrange, just as archers would have done...After a few volleys, they closed ranks and the musket with bayonet became a short pike. They intended to force the enemy off the field, not achieve a high body count.

The best example of this is the British Brown Bess smoothbore musket and the many copys made by Americans during the Revolution. Of course we had our famed riflemen, but they were shooting one-of-a-kind Pennsylvania and Kentucky rifles that were slower to load than a smoothbore military musket.

Rifled muskets for the regular infantry in the United States would have started with the Harpers Ferry Rifle during and after the War of 1812 (and they were probably inspired by the British Baker's Rifle used in the Napoleonic War). Once the industrial revolution got rolling, cheaper rifles with interchangeable parts were available for the regular infantry, just in time for the American Civil War.
 
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