recoilless rifle

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RIFLE, RECOILLESS, a lightweight, air-cooled, manually operated, breech-loading, single-shot, direct-fire weapon used primarily for defense against tanks. The pressure to the front equals the force to the rear. The remaining gases are permitted to escape to the rear so that the rifle remains motionless when fired. First developed by the German army in World War II, the weapon saw further refinement as a form of antitank artillery for airborne units in the U.S. Army. After the Korean War, advances in armor indicated a need for heavier antitank weapons, and the 90-mm M67 and the 106-mm M40 A1 were introduced as a result.


Baldwin, Ralph Belknap. They Never Knew What Hit Them: The Story of the Best Kept Secret of World War II. Naples, Fla.: Reynier Press, 1999.

Barker, Arthur James. British and American Infantry Weapons of World War II. London: Arms and Armour Press, 1973.

W arnerStark/h. s.

See alsoMachine Guns ; Munitions .

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recoilless rifle, light artillery piece, without recoil, usually operated by two men. An American invention, it was used as an infantry weapon for attacking fortifications such as pillboxes and bunkers during the last months of World War II and later in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Unlike standard artillery pieces it does not need a recoil mechanism and thus is light enough to be carried by one man. Recoilless rifles use a perforated artillery cartridge case that allows a portion of the propellent gases to escape through vents in the breech of the gun, thereby greatly reducing the recoil.