World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000586963
Reproduction Date:

Title: Smoothbore  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rifling, USS Roanoke (1855), M1 Abrams, Sniper, USS Michigan (1843)
Collection: Artillery by Type, Artillery Components, Firearm Terminology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


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. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars. The majority of shotguns are smoothbores and the term can be synonymous.


  • History of firearms and rifling 1
  • Modern smoothbores 2
    • Small arms 2.1
    • Artillery 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

History of firearms and rifling

Early firearms had smooth barrels that fired [2]

Rifling a barrel with spiral grooves or polygonal rifling imparts a stabilizing gyroscopic spin to a projectile that prevents tumbling in flight. Not only does this more than counter Magnus-induced drift, but it allows a longer, heavier round to be fired from the same caliber barrel, increasing both range and power.

In the eighteenth century, the standard infantry arm was the smoothbore musket; by the nineteenth, rifled barrels became the norm, increasing power and range of the weapon significantly.[3]

Modern smoothbores

Some smoothbore firearms are still used.

Small arms

A shotgun fires multiple, round shot; firing out of a rifled barrel would impart centrifugal forces that result a doughnut-shaped pattern of shot (with a high projectile density on the periphery, and a low projectile density in the interior). While this may be acceptable at close ranges (some spreader chokes are rifled to produce wide patterns at close range) this is not desirable at longer ranges, where a tight, consistent pattern is required to improve accuracy.[4]

Another smoothbore weapon in use today is the 37-mm riot gun, that fires non-lethal munitions like rubber bullets and teargas at short range at crowds, where a high degree of accuracy is not required.[5]


The cannon made the transition from smoothbore firing cannonballs to rifled firing shells in the 19th century. However, to reliably penetrate the thick armor of modern armored vehicles many modern tank guns have moved back to smoothbore. These fire a very long, thin kinetic-energy projectile, too long in relation to its diameter to develop the necessary spin rate through rifling. Instead, kinetic energy rounds are produced as fin-stabililzed darts. Not only does this eliminate the time and expense of rifling barrels it also eliminates the need for replacement due to barrel wear.

The first tank with a smoothbore gun was the Soviet T-62, introduced into service in 1961. Today all main battle tanks field them but the British Challenger 2 and Indian Arjun MBT. While the 73 mm gun of the early Soviet infantry fighting vehicles BMP-1 and BMD-1 was a smoothbore, their more recent successors BMP-3 and BMD-4 use a rifled 100 mm gun. The Russian navy conducted experiments with large-caliber smoothbore naval guns, which were halted by budget cuts.

The armour-piercing gun evolution has also shown up in small arms, particularly the now abandoned U.S. Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) program. The ACR "rifles" used smoothbore barrels to fire single or multiple flechettes (tiny darts), rather than bullets, per pull of the trigger, to provide long range, flat trajectory, and armor-piercing abilities. Just like kinetic-energy tank rounds, flechettes are too long and thin to be stabilized by rifling and perform best from a smoothbore barrel. The ACR program was abandoned due to reliability problems and poor terminal ballistics.

Mortar barrels are typically muzzle-loading smoothbores. Since mortars fire bombs that are dropped down the barrel and must not be a tight fit, a smooth barrel is essential. The bombs are fin-stabilized.

See also


  1. ^ Fadala, Sam (17 November 2006). The Complete Blackpowder Handbook. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 308.  
  2. ^ Forge, John (24 December 2012). Designed to Kill: The Case Against Weapons Research: The Case Against Weapons Research. Springer. pp. 63–64.  
  3. ^ Denny, Mark (1 May 2011). Their Arrows Will Darken the Sun: The Evolution and Science of Ballistics. JHU Press. p. 53.  
  4. ^ Haag, Michael G.; Haag, Lucien C. (29 June 2011). Shooting Incident Reconstruction. Academic Press. p. 281.  
  5. ^ Kolman, John A. (1 January 2006). Patrol Response to Contemporary Problems: Enhancing Performance of First Responders Through Knowledge and Experience. Charles C Thomas Publisher. p. 102.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.