Bolt action is a type of firearm action in which the weapon's bolt is operated manually by the opening and closing of the breech (barrel) with a small handle, most commonly placed on the right-hand side of the weapon (for right-handed users). As the handle is operated, the bolt is unlocked, the breech is opened, the spent shell casing is withdrawn and ejected, the firing pin is cocked (this occurs either on the opening or closing of the bolt, depending on design), and finally a new round/shell (if available) is placed into the breech and the bolt closed. Bolt action firearms are most often rifles, but there are some bolt-action shotguns and a few handguns as well. Examples of this system date as far back as the early 19th century, notably in the Dreyse needle gun. From the late 19th century, all the way through both World Wars, the bolt-action rifle was the standard infantry firearm for most of the world's militaries.
In military use, the bolt action has been mostly replaced by semi-automatic and selective fire weapons, though the bolt action remains the dominant design in dedicated sniper rifles. Bolt action firearms are still very popular for hunting and target practice. Compared to most other manually-operated firearm actions, it offers an excellent balance of strength (allowing powerful chamberings), simplicity, and potential accuracy, all with a light weight and low cost. The major disadvantage is a slightly lower practical rate of fire than other alternatives, but this is not a critical factor in many types of hunting and target shooting.
The first bolt-action rifle was produced in 1824 by Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse, following work on breechloading rifles that dated to at least the Ferguson of 1776. Von Dreyse would perfect his Nadelgewehr (Needle Rifle) by 1836, and it was adopted by the Prussian Army in 1841. It became the first bolt-action weapon to see combat in 1864. The United States purchased 900 Greene rifles in 1857, but this weapon was ultimately considered too complicated for issue to soldiers and was supplanted by the Springfield rifle, a conventional muzzle loading rifle. During the American Civil War, the bolt-action Palmer carbine was patented in 1863, and by 1865, 1000 were purchased for use as cavalry weapons.The French Army adopted its first bolt action rifle,the Chassepot rifle,in 1866 and followed with the metallic cartridge bolt action Gras rifle in 1874 .
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