Talk:Express (weaponry)

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On the recoil of the falling block Rugers, it might be worth noting that the continental stock goes a long way to weighting up the rifle and reducing recoil.

They call the full length stocks "International" in the catalog. Heavier barrels also help. On the other hand, too heavy and the rifle becomes a burden to carry, and if it's a burden to carry, you might not have it when you need it. scot 14:55, 9 November 2006 (UTC)


This article defines an express rifle as a big bore. The 1911 Britannica defines it as any "high" velocity rifle, with "high" being relative to the technologies of the day. In the 1880s, Winchester offered Express cartridges in 38 caliber, hardly "big bore." Further research may require a complete rewrite of this article. KarlWK (talk) 21:17, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

Well, .38 _is_ a big bore rifle cartridge these days...the .38 caliber rifle cartridges, like the .38-90 Winchester Express, used bullets in the range of .375 to .400 inch, which is included in the definition given in the article. Part of the problem is that the definition of "express rifle" has changed from its inception, from purely an expression of speed, into an expression of big game power. Is the .204 Ruger an express rifle? It's the fastest production cartridge, but not something you'd take on a charging tiger with. The .242 Nitro Express was a very high velocity cartridge in its day, but it's ballistically equal to a .243 Winchester, which is considered nothing special today. Modern express rifle cartridges are tending towards larger calibers, like the .577 Tyrannosaur, and .585 Nyati, which push big, heavy 750 grain bullets at velocities over 2,400 fps, and energies over 10,000 ft. lbs. And this from a rifle half the size of a .50 BMG. scot (talk) 21:44, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps the definition of "express" has varied over the years; regardless, the article dwells only on one variant of it. To quote the 1911 Britannica: "the name 'express' is applied to a rifle having high velocity, flat trajectory and long fixed-sight ranges; and an 'express bullet' is a light bullet with a heavy charge of powder used in such a rifle." This definition--formed in the era of the original Express rifles--contradicts the thrust of this article. This article presumes the only Express rifles are those chambered for the Nitro Express cartridges still marketed today, when in fact the Nitro Express name was derived from the original black powder Express rifles which preceding them. This article strikes me as incorrect on many counts. Look at the Ammunition section. It tells us Express cartridges are usually straight walled. All the Winchester Express cartridges and many of the British express cartridges of the same era are in fact bottleneck. KarlWK (talk) 10:29, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree that it's a difficult topic to pin down. I'd be happy to do a re-write, if we can scrounge up some good sources to use. The 1911 EB works for the older definition (though I've always found encyclopedias pretty poor sources on firearms, which is one reason I'm here doing this), and succinctly covers the modern definition (, a rifle designed for firing at game at short range). Barnes' "Cartridges of the World" intro to the section on British sporting cartridges covers the big bore sporting cartridges and double rifles pretty well--that was the classic express rifle format, with the .450 x 3 1/4 inch Express, either black powder or Nitro, being the round of choice. While there were bottlenecked cases, the long, straight walled, low pressure case, which was well suited to break-open actions but too long for bolt actions, was the choice, because it would not fail. Barnes notes that in the African heat, the shorter, fatter, higher pressure cases were far more likely to produce dangerously high overpressure and stick in the chamber than the much larger, lower pressure cartridges based on the old, high capacity black powder cases.
Just to have it handy, here's the relevant chunk from the 1911 Britannica article, from Google Books (which also seems to contradict itself, saying the calibers range from .360 to .577, then later going down to .256):
In 1855 W. Greener produced the " Cape rifle" for South African sport, calibre -450 or -500; rifling, two deep grooves with one turn in 26 in., with a flanged bullet to fit the grooves; weight, 12 Ib; sighted up to 1200 yds. This rifle was successful, and others were built by Purdey, who in 1856 named the pattern " Express Train." Since that date the word " express " has been generally used to denote a rifle possessing high velocity, flat trajectory and long fixed-sight range.2 In America small-bore rifles were used earlier in the i9th century. The celebrated Kentucky rifles were of various sizes, firing spherical baUs of oo, 60 and 40 to the Ib, and were renowned for their accuracy and fixed-sight range up to loo yds. Some maintain that the express rifle was developed from the Kentucky model. The modern express rifle may be defined as a breech -loa ding rifle with a height of trajectory not exceeding 4} in. at 150 yds., with a muzzle velocity of at least 1750 f.s. These rifles arc usually 5- to 7-groovcd, double-barrelled, with 26- to 28-in. barrels of -360, -400, -450. •500 and -577 bores, weighing respectively from 6\ to 7 Ib, 7 to 8 Ib, 7! to 9 Ib, 8i to ю Ib and ioj to 12 Ib. The respective average charges arc: bullet, 150 grains; powder. 50 grains; 209 and 82; 270 and no; 340 and 130; 520 and 160; the fixed-sight ranges, 130, 160, 150, 130 and 120 yds. Double and single express rifles of -303 bore with зб-in. barrels are also made. Since the invention of cordite powder and the advent of the small-bore high-velocity rifle for military purposes, the variety of sporting rifles with different-sized bores has increased. Sporting cordite express rifles are now made, both single- and double-barrelled, of the following calibres: -256, -265, -276, •303, -310, -360, -370, -375, -400, -450, -500, -577 and -600. Some of these calibres, such as -500, -577 and -600, are seldom used with cordite. The -450 cordite express is the largest bore high- velocity rifle recommended. The modern small-bore military rifle already described possesses all the best qualities of an express sporting rifle — namely accuracy, flat trajectory, high muzzle velocity and long point-blank or fixed-sight range up to 200 yds. The muzzle velocity of the -303 bore with black powder is 1850 f.s.; with cordite, 2100 f.s. The hollow-pointed or slit expanding bullet is generally used in these high-velocity rifles, as in the black- powder express, for ordinary sporting purposes, with the solid metal cartridge-case. The pointed bullet is also sometimes used, generally with the -375 and -475 calibre rifles, and gives an increased muzzle velocity of 2500 f.s. The trajectory of the cordite rifle is stated to be ю in. flatter at 200 yds. than that of a black-powder rifle of similar calibre and corresponding charge. The variety of bores in sporting rifles is due largely to restrictions on the importation of arms of the military calibres (especially •303) into India and South Africa. The sights of sporting express rifles are of some variety, and are usually designed and made with special care. The open V back-sight on an ivory pyramid with two or three leaves up to 300 yds., and the enamelled bead fore-sight, are the most usual form. The more elaborate Lyman and Beech peep-sights are also popular. One or two varieties of telescope sight, attachable to the barrel, are also made by some leading gunmakers, and have been used with success in the field. Solid-drawn brass cartridge-cases are now always used for sporting rifles, except occasionally for some of the larger bores, in which paper cartridges may be used. The peculiarity of the express bullet is its hollow point, which is intended to ensure the expansion of the projectile on impact. This diminishes its penetration, but translates its velocity or energy into " shock." If greater penetration is needed, the leaden bullet is hardened with mercury or tin, or the military nickel-coated bullet is used.
Note that Barnes also mentions the restriction on military calibers in India, hence the .450 BPE/NE were banned; this lead to the development of the .460, .465, and .470, among others, which all roughly duplicated the performance of the .450 (and just to show history repeats itself, look at the .50 BMG derivatives appearing to replace the .50 BMG where it's outlawed...). scot (talk) 14:36, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
I believe the sources you've so far cited support the contention that "express" rifle meant "faster than normal." The current article paints express as meaning "dangerous game stopping rifle." At the minimum, the introduction to the topic should include the older definition of express, for many of the original (black powder) express rifles were not suitable for dangerous game. The history of the express rifle could include a section devoted to these earliest, BPE rifles. The history could end with current express rifles sold, the vast majority of which are nitro express stopping rifles. The ammunition section should drop entirely the straight wall claim, for even today, the majority of nitro express rifles are bottleneck, and I believe even the majority of BPE rifles were bottleneck as well (witness all three Winchesters, the 577/500, various 450/400's, and various 500/450's). KarlWK (talk) 01:09, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Scot, with your recent changes to the article, I find little to gripe with. Good job. KarlWK (talk) 16:13, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Collecting sources[edit]

Older sources, available in Google Books:

  • "The Gun and Its Development" By William Wellington Greener (Cassell, 1907), splits the big bore "Express rifles" from the higher velocity military rifles, which he calls "long range Express rifles". Start at page 629 for the in-depth discussion. Greener explicitly states that the .360 is the smallest caliber Express cartridge. He also notes the tendency away from the early hollow point bullets, and towards heavier solids for use with dangerous game, with the light .450 bullet shattering on a tiger's skull--this is the point I think where the modern Express rifle truly becomes a separate entity. Page 639 starts a discussion of sights for various purposes.
  • "The Book fo the Rifle" By Thomas Francis Fremantle, Thomas Francis Fremantle Cottesloe (Longmans, Green, and Co. 1901) lists the essence of the Express rifle as sufficient striking power, flat trajectory, and an expanding bullet. Minimum velocity opinions ranged from 1600 to 1750 fps, with a 150 yard point blank range.
  • "Bullet and Shot in Indian Forest, Plain and Hill", By Charles Edward Mackintosh Russell(W. Thacker and Co, 1900) also points out the ineffectiveness of the lightweight, hollow point bullets in the .450 against dangerous game such as tigers.

scot (talk) 15:06, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

  • Rifles for Africa, Gregor Woods (editor of Magnum magazine, from Africa), c.2002, p.45: "The express designation (from "express train") signified high velocity, which one could achieve in cartridge rifles by using heavy (usually compressed) charges of high-quality black powder with paper-wrapped, all-lead cylindrical bullets." He goes on to say Selous used the 450 BPE on lion with good success, but that it was not adequate for elephant. He earlier mentions that the large, bore-gauged rifles were the BP guns used for most dangerous game. KarlWK (talk) 01:09, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
  • gives for "express rifle": A sporting rifle for use at short ranges, employing a large charge of powder and a light (short) bullet, giving a high initial velocity and consequently a flat trajectory. It is usually of moderately large caliber. As an adjective, it includes for "express": Sent out with or moving at high speed. KarlWK (talk) 01:15, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Kentucky rifle[edit]

I removed a very US-centric unverified comment about the American Kentucky rifle being the ancestor of European express rifles. High powered rifles, both with short barrels and with long barrels (including small caliber long-barreled hunting rifles), have a long and unbroken history in Europe, dating back to long before the Kentucky Rifle. The fact that Kentucky rifles were first made by European gunsmiths who had emigrated to America bringning their craft with them, should be enough to prove that there is/was nothing truly unique about the Kentucky rifle. The Kentucky rifle may be an important part of US history but from a European perspective it was just an ordinary rifle, albeit with a longer barrel than most other rifles. Allan Akbar (talk) 13:06, 26 April 2011 (UTC)