7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

Maria - June 14, 2016

Rifles were a widely used type of weapon during the Second World War. A nation would field one or more types of infantry rifles. While some were more specifically identified with particular nations, others were used by various countries more randomly with no apparent partialities.

We have sampled a list of five of what we consider the best infantry rifles that served in World War II. If it wasn’t used then, it isn’t on the list. And if it’s anything like a machine gun or submachine gun, it isn’t here either. Not even assault rifles have featured in this classification.

7. Arisaka Type 99

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

A Type 99 Short rifle, also known as the “last-ditch” Type 99 rifle is widely identified with the Japanese. The Type 99 bolt rifle is one of the sturdiest military-grade rifles ever made. There are however a lot of late-war rifles that used lower quality parts, entirely lacked a finish- basically suffered lots of shortcuts to ease production for purposes of the war.

These late-war “last-ditch” rifles are often identified by their wood butt plate, poorly finished stock, noticeable tooling marks in their metal, unfinished bolt knobs and handle and rudimentary sights- all of which speak of crudeness. They may as such be unsafe to fire. The Type 99 rifle Arisaka has no monopod nor flip-up anti-aircraft rear sight. The rifle has the Arisaka design. It’s the bolt-action rifle that the Imperial Japanese Army used during the 2nd World War.

Unlike its prototypes, it had a unique disadvantage. The Type 99 had an increased recoil caused by its fairly heavier cartridge on a lighter-weight rifle.

6. Mauser K98k

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

The Karabiner 98k is a rifle that was derived from earlier Mauser rifle models. This followed a February 1934 order by the Army Weapons Agency- Heereswaffenamt to have a new military rifle adopted. The initial models include the Karabiner 98b and the Mauser Standardmodell of 1924. Both of these had been developed from the Gewehr 98, an earlier version.

The Mauser Karabiner 98k rifle was designated as Karabiner 98 Kurz, (Carbine 98 Short) because it was shorter than the earlier Karabiner 98b from which it was developed. It, however, shared a lot of similarities with its predecessor, chiefly great accuracy, reliability and an effective range. It boasted up to 1,090 yards with an 8× telescopic sight and 550 yards with iron sights. A controlled-feed bolt-action rifle of the Mauser M 98 system, the Karabiner 98k’s internal magazine can be loaded with five sizes 7.92 by 57mm Mauser cartridges either one by one or from a stripper clip.

While the Gewehr 98 has a straight bolt handle, the Karabiner 98k, on the other hand, features a turned-down bolt handle. As such, the Karabiner 98k’s bolt is easier to operate swiftly. The change reduced the amount projected handle beyond the receiver. It has also made it possible to mount aiming optics directly above the receiver. Each of the Karabiner 98k rifles was fitted out with a short-length cleaning rod through the rifle’s bayonet stud.

This rifle is widely associated with the Germans as all the country’s branches of armed forces used it during World War II. Provided there was anyone German in a war theater- from Europe to North Africa, the Soviet Union to Finland and Norway- there was the Mauser Karabiner 98k rifle. This rifle was powerful. It was initially hard to suppress and was responsible for most of the victory the German forces acquired. It only became less advantageous in the rate of fire when Germany’s American and Soviet enemies started fielding more semi-automatic weapons giving their troops an upper hand. Despite these misgivings, the Karabiner 98k remained the Wehrmacht’s main infantry rifle until the end of the 2nd World War.

5. MAS 36

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

This French weapon is a short, carbine-style rifle with a slab-sided receiver and two-piece stock. It features the modern, rimless 7.5 by 54mm French cartridge chamber. This is a shortened version of the regular 7.5×57mm MAS mod. 1924 cartridge introduced in 1924 and later modified in 1929 the FM 24/29 light machine gun.

The MAS 36 rifle was the result of the French experience in World War I. It combines features of various other rifles such as the British SMLE rifle, the U.S. M1917 Enfield rifle as well as the German Mauser. With these features, it looks rather ugly and rough but is massively robust and reliable as a service rifle. Its bolt handle was bent forward. That’s an awkward position, but it served its purpose well: to come into a convenient position for the firer’s hand. Modern versions of the rifle have since had their bolt handles bent backward into a downward-facing position just like those of many bolt-action rifles.

The MAS-36 rifle was fitted with large rear aperture and front post, and had a fairly short barrel and sights designed for typical fighting ranges. It had no manual safety and would normally be carried with an empty chamber and a loaded magazine only to be loaded when the soldier was engaged in combat. The MAS-36 featured a 17-inch spike bayonet which would be reversed in a tube just below the barrel. It also had a stacking hook offset for standing a number of the rifles, usually three of them.

4. Mosin-Nagant M91/30

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

The Mosin Nagant is an easy-to-use, sturdy, and, in many cases the best survival rifle. With an internal magazine of five rounds and stripper clips, this gun is available to speed loading. It has a bolt that is odd- extending at a 90 degrees angle to the right, and straightens up when pulled back, not allowing for usual scope-mounting options.
Used in world war II, the Mosin Nagant was developed by the Russian Army in 1882-1891. Initially, the armed forces of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union used the Mosin Nagant to fight their enemies from the 1890s until the early 1960s. The Russians used their Mosin-Nagants against the Japanese, the Germans, their fellow Russians and neighboring Finns.

By the time the war started, this rifle had become the weapon of choice and necessity of Soviet and Finnish snipers. They used them to kill entire companies of enemy soldiers single-handedly. Also, the Mosin Nagant was the most used and abused rifle by millions of illiterate peasant soldiers and Soviet conscripts.

3. Carcano

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

This repeating military rifle developed in 1890 was named after its developer Salvatore Carcano. It was commonly referred to as the M91 (Modello 91) and was the main weapon associated with the Italians. It is a magazine-fed bolt-action weapon introduced in 1891. It was chambered for the rimless 6.5×52mm Carcano cartridge and successfully replaced the previous Vetterli-Vitali rifles.

2. Lee Enfield

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

Widely used by the British Empire and Commonwealth military forces as their main firearm in the early 20th century, Lee-Enfield is a bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle. It served as the standard rifle for the British Army from 1895 (its official adoption date) until 1957. Britain adopted a redesign of the Lee-Metford in 1888 to create the Lee-Enfield, which superseded the earlier Martini-Enfield, Martini-Henry and Lee-Metford rifles.

This infantry rifle is still used by the armed forces of some Commonwealth nations, particularly the Bangladesh Police. As such, it is the longest-serving military bolt-action rifle still featuring in official service to date.

1. The M1 Garand

7 Leading Infantry Rifles of World War II

The M1 Garand definitely laid the ground for today’s generation of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. This semi-automatic rifle chambered for the .30-06 Springfield rifle cartridge was widely used by the US Army from 1936 to 1957. It was the very first standard-issue semi-automatic military rifle. The name comes from that of its designer John Garand.

It gave the United States forces a distinctive advantage in various firefights during World War II. Their Axis enemies who relied on the slower-firing bolt-action rifles were no match to these effective standard-issue rifles. In addition to being semi-automatic, the M1 is air-cooled, clip-fed, gas-operated, shoulder-fired weapon. These features make it an exclusive military rifle.


Sources For Further Reading:

Military Trader – The WWII Type 99 Japanese Rifle

Warfare History Network – Was the 1917 Enfield a Good Rifle Compared to the Springfield?

American Rifleman – A Look Back at the 1917 Enfield

National Interest – The Lee Enfield Rifle Is So Good That It Outlasted The British Empire

Military Trader – Tips And Values Of WWII French MAS-36 Bolt Action Rifles

National Interest – The Mosin-Nagant: The Russian Sniper Rifle Nazi Germany Feared Most

Prepare for SHTF – The Mosin Nagant a Great Survival Rifle

The Armory Life – Garand: The Man Behind The Legend

National Interest – The U.S. Army Loved the M1 Garand Rifle, But It Wasn’t the Only Option

Forbes – This ‘Rifle That Won World War II’ Is Likely To Be The Most Expensive Ever

History Collection – 10 Deadly Infantry Weapons of WWII

National Interest – World War I: The Infantry Rifle to End All Rifles