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A battle rifle is a military service rifle that fires a full-power rifle cartridge, such as 7.62×51mm NATO or 7.62×54mm. Usually because of the harsh recoil, they are only semi-automatic (though there are some exceptions), and the larger size of the rifle rounds renders capacity low, though they usually compensate for this with greater power, range, and accuracy.
The designation of battle rifle is usually given to post-World War II select fire infantry rifles such as the FN FAL, the M14 and the H&K G3. This term also describes older military full-powered semi-automatic rifles such as the M1 Garand, the MAS-49 and the FN-49.
The term 'battle rifle' is a neologism. It was created largely out of a need to better differentiate the intermediate-power assault rifles (StG-44, AK-47 and M16) from the full-powered automatic rifles (FN FAL, M14 rifle and H&K G3) as both classes of firearms have similar appearances and share many of the same features. It was first used in the late 1990s by various firearms publications and by several notable firearms writers. It is not defined in, or frequently used in, military field manuals or government documents. Prior to the 1990s, the term was not well defined and was used as a general description for all types of military rifles.
- Charles Karwan (December 1999), "Military Guns Of The Century", Guns Magazine