Changes have come slowly

by Ray Blades | May 15, 2023
rifle Ray

When you stop and think about it, not much has changed in rifle function and design for the average hunter in the past 200 years or so. Since the development of breechloading systems able to fire a single combustible cartridge and the bolt-action design of Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse, major innovations have come slowly.

Am I saying nothing has changed? No. That would be an affront to legendary firearms inventors like John Browning and Karl Mauser.

But, if you compare hunting rifles with the transformations that have taken place in other technological sectors, such as the automotive industry, we should be using lasers or hydrogen-powered, electronically-guided projectiles by now.

What has changed?

Well, we’re increasingly seeing function trump elegance. And that’s fine with me. I love the classic look of a walnut stock, but I’ll take the weight reduction and functionality (adjustable comb, grip textures, and finishes) of a synthetic stock any day in a modern rifle. Trigger designs have advanced too, especially their smoothness and adjustability.

And is there any better invention than an external safety? Rifle barrels have evolved from hexagon to round, in both carbon steel and stainless steel — and these days there are protective ceramic coatings too. Barrels also now feature hammer-forged, twisted, or fluted configurations with muzzle brakes, crowning and more. So what’s not to like?

A select number of firearms manufactures have been on the cutting edge of what’s possible with composite barrels, making them thin, light, and rigid by wrapping them in carbon fibre. We put a few through their paces, and you can read about what our firearms expert Jason Livingston thought of them and what you need to know about carbon-barrel rifles in “That’s a wrap,” on pg. 46 of our May 2022 issue.

Yup, major changes have come slowly. But the refinements, well, they have been amazing.

Ray headshot

Originally published in the April 2022 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS

Ray Blades is the Editor of Ontario OUT of DOORS and a lover of wild places and the life-giving magic of hot black coffee. Reach Ray at:; Twitter: @rayOODMAG; Instagram: @ray.blades

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