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A semi-automatic rifle is a rifle that fires a single round each time the trigger is pulled, uses gas, blowforward, blowback, or recoil to eject the spent cartridge after the round has traveled down the barrel, chambers a new cartridge from its magazine, and resets the action; enabling another round to be fired once the trigger is depressed again.
The self-loading design was a successor to earlier rifles that required manual-cycling of the weapon after each shot, such as the bolt-action rifle or repeating rifles, which required the operator to manual cycle the action before each shot. The ability to automatically load the next round allowed for an increase in the rounds per minute the operator could fire.